The Mediterranean Diet is an age-old lifestyle practice which has been gaining topical attention from health and nutrition experts around the globe. It is one of the most healthful diets out there, boasting many research-backed benefits such as weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, better blood sugar regulation, and longevity. So let's take a look at what makes this diet so much more than just another trendy wellness fad.
What exactly is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes fresh vegetables and fruits as well as whole grains along with fish, poultry, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. It also focuses on limiting sugars, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, fatty meats, and processed meats. It is recommended to avoid red meat and, instead, consume protein from seafood or fish at least twice a week, while also having low-fat or non-fat dairy, eggs, and poultry most days.
Why is it so healthy?
According to Medical News Today, “Mediterranean diets have long been associated with benefits to cardiovascular health. In the mid-20th century, the Seven Countries study showed that dietary patterns in the Mediterranean and in Japan in the 1960s were associated with low rates of coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality. Since then, research has shown that this type of diet not only benefits cardiovascular health, but it also reduces the risk of many other health conditions.” This seems to be because this diet is high in fiber, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Recent research found that women who adhered to a Mediterranean diet reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24%, and their risk of any cause by 23%. Another study showed that this diet may improve cognitive function and lower the risk of dementia, even in those who were genetically predisposed.
“A 2019 review found that high adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower rate of several cancers, including breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.” It is believed that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of many foods in this diet fend off and impede damage done to DNA and slow down the development of some forms of cancer while also improving the efficacy of some cancer treatments.
All in all, the Mediterranean diet is a valid dietary choice with numerous health benefits, not just a trend or fad-diet. As science continues to uncover more benefits of this diet, there is no doubt that it can have a positive impact on one's overall health. By adopting a Mediterranean diet, individuals can decrease their risk of developing cardiovascular disease, better regulate their blood sugar levels, lose weight, and possibly stave off cancer. It’s never too late to gain better control over our health and put ourselves in the best position possible to live a long, healthy life.
The American Heart Association. (2022, July 21). What is the Mediterranean diet? www.heart.org. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet
Brooks, M. (2023, April 6). Some diets better than others for heart protection. Medscape. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/990305
MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Mediterranean, low-fat diets can reduce heart attacks in those at risk. Medical News Today. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mediterranean-and-low-fat-diets-may-be-best-at-lowering-risk-of-death-heart-attacks
MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Can a Mediterranean diet help keep heart disease, dementia, and cancer at Bay? Medical News Today. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/can-a-mediterranean-diet-help-keep-heart-disease-dementia-and-cancer-at-bayErin McGreal RN, BSN