Not only is the Mediterranean diet a tasty way to eat, drink and live, but it is also a realistic and sustainable way to reduce disease-causing inflammation and lose weight. The Mediterranean diet has long been one of the healthiest diets known to man. The history and tradition of the Mediterranean diet stems from the historical food and social habits of the southern regions of Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain.
Therefore, the Mediterranean diet is not even a “diet” in the sense we usually understand it, but rather a way of eating and living that lasts a lifetime. For thousands of years people living along the Mediterranean coast have indulged in a high fiber diet of fruits and vegetables, also including quality fats and proteins in moderation, and sometimes a glass of locally made wine to complement the meal. In the meantime, this mode of eating has gained a reputation for preventing disease, improving mood and even “pleasant” weight management. In fact, studies show that the same diet that can help you shed unwanted pounds—and keep them off—can also reduce your risk of depression, heart disease, and more.
Appeared in Italy thousands of years ago and having spread to Greece, Spain and other regions around the Mediterranean, this diet is now widely used around the world to promote health and longevity. Although it has always existed, even before books and studies were dedicated to it, this diet really started to take hold around the world in the years 1990, when a doctor at Harvard University introduced it as a useful diet for improving heart health, losing weight and solving other health problems.
What are the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet?
Considered by many nutrition experts to be one of the most heart-healthy eating habits, the Mediterranean diet is made up of anti-inflammatory foods and is based on plant-based foods and healthy fats. According to numerous researches, this particular diet can protect against the development of heart disease, metabolic complications, depression, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The best part is that even with all these benefits, this diet allows people to “eat, drink and have fun”.
Have you ever wondered why the inhabitants of the Mediterranean region seem so happy and full of life? It’s tempting to attribute their good health and good mood to a single factor, like their diet, for example, but the truth is that it’s a combination of factors related to their lifestyle and their unprocessed diet. which has promoted their longevity and low rate of disease for centuries.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health: if we add to this regular physical activity and the fact of not not smoke, our analyzes suggest that more than 45% of coronary heart disease, 70% of strokes and 90% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by healthy food choices consistent with the traditional Mediterranean diet.
What foods are included?
The Mediterranean diet favors the following foods:
– fresh fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale andnon-starchy vegetables such as eggplant, cauliflower, artichokes, tomatoes and fennel)
– olive oil
– nuts and seeds (like almonds and sesame seeds used to make tahini)
– legumes and beans (especially lentils and chickpeas used to make hummus)
– herbs and spices (such as oregano , rosemary and parsley)
– whole grains
– fish consumption and wild seafood at least twice a week
– high quality pasture-raised poultry, eggs, cheese, goat milk and kefir or probiotic-rich yogurt, eaten in moderation
– red meat eaten on special occasions or about once a week
– plenty of cold water and coffee or tea
– often a glass of red wine a day
The importance of olive oil
Almost all nutrition researchers attribute at least part of the legendary benefits of the Mediterranean diet with copious amounts of olive oil included in almost every meal. Olives themselves are a very old food, and olive trees have been growing around the Mediterranean region for about 3 000 years before Christ.
Olive oil joins foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts, for example, in the category of healthy fatty acids. Olive oil has been extensively researched on its health benefits.
Scientific evidence suggests that daily consumption of approximately 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fats in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil should replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you consume in a day.
So what what makes olive oil so healthy?
For starters, olive oil is very rich in compounds called phenols, which are powerful antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and fight free radical damage. Olive oil is mainly composed of monounsaturated fatty acids, the most important of which is oleic acid. Oleic acid is known to be extremely heart healthy in many ways, especially when compared to many other refined vegetable oils, trans fatty acids or hydrogenated fats.
Olive oil even has a head start in heart health benefits over most grain-based carbs. For example, diets high in monounsaturated fats lower LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol, and lower triglycerides better than diets high in carbohydrates.
How Much Olive Oil Should consume daily?
Although recommendations differ depending on your calorie needs and diet, one to four tablespoons appear to be beneficial. Estimates show that people in the Mediterranean region probably consume between three and four tablespoons a day, and this is the amount that some health practitioners recommend for their heart disease patients.
Remember that not all olive oils are created equal. Here’s what really makes a big difference: Look for labels that say your oil is “extra-virgin” and ideally cold-pressed. Olive oil is almost unique among oils in that you can consume it in its raw form with no processing required (for example, you could literally press olives and enjoy their natural oils).
Although delicate and not necessarily the best oil for cooking, cold-pressed or press-pressed oil has not been refined and therefore retains better all its natural vitamins, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients. While unrefined oil is separated without high heat, hot water, solvents and left unfiltered, conversely some oils are heated to a high degree which reduces their benefits.
9 health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
1. Low in processed foods and sugar
This diet consists mainly of foods and ingredients that are very close to nature, including olive oil, legumes like peas and beans, fruits, vegetables, unrefined grain products, and small portions of animal products (which are always “organic” and locally produced). Unlike the typical Western diet, it is very low in sugar or artificial ingredients like preservatives and flavor enhancers. For sweets, Mediterranean people eat fruit or small amounts of homemade desserts with natural sweeteners such as honey.
Besides plant-based foods, locally caught fish and moderate consumption cow, goat or mutton cheeses and yoghurts are another essential part of the diet, as they provide healthy fats and cholesterol. Fish such as sardines and anchovies are a central part of the diet, which is traditionally lower in meat products than many current Western diets.
Although most Mediterranean people are not vegetarians, the diet only encourages a low consumption of meats and heavier dishes, in favor of a lighter and healthier fish-based diet. It may be beneficial for those looking to lose weight and improve things like their cholesterol, heart health, and omega-3 fatty acid intake.
2. Helps you lose weight the healthy way
If you are looking to lose weight without going hungry and maintain that weight in a realistic way that can last a lifetime , this diet might be the one for you. This diet is both sustainable and interesting, and has been undertaken by many people around the world with great success related to weight loss and more, as it helps manage weight and reduce the intake of fat the natural and easy way through the consumption of many nutrient-dense foods.
The Mediterranean diet is up to interpretation, whether you prefer to eat fewer carbohydrates, less protein or something between the two. The diet focuses on consuming healthy fats while keeping carbohydrates relatively low and improving the intake of high-quality protein foods. If you prefer protein to legumes and cereals, you have the opportunity to lose weight in a healthy way, without depriving yourself, by consuming a large amount of seafood and quality dairy products (which simultaneously bring other benefits such as omega-3s and often probiotics).
Fish, dairy products and grass-fed/free-range meats contain healthy fatty acids that the body needs and that help you feel full, manage weight gain, control blood sugar, and improve your mood and energy levels. If you prefer plant-based foods, legumes and whole grains (especially if soaked and sprouted) are also good filling choices.
3. Improves heart health
Research shows that greater adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 foods, is associated with increased significant reduction in all-cause mortality, especially from heart disease. Many studies have shown the striking protective effect of a Mediterranean diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from olive oil. Some studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the risk of cardiac death by 30% and 45 % that of sudden cardiac death.
Olive oil is also beneficial in reducing hypertension because it makes nitric oxide more bioavailable, allowing it to better keep arteries dilated and clear. Another protective element, it helps fight the effects of oxidation that promote disease and improves endothelial function. Remember that low cholesterol is sometimes worse than high, but Mediterranean people don’t usually struggle to maintain healthy cholesterol levels either, as they eat lots of healthy fats.
4. Helps fight cancer
The biological mechanisms of cancer prevention associated with the Mediterranean diet have been linked to the favorable effect of a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3 and high amounts of fibre, antioxidants and polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables, olive oil and wine.
A diet with plant base, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, which can help fight cancer in almost every way – by providing antioxidants, protecting DNA from damage, stopping cellular mutation, reducing inflammation and delaying tumor growth. It may have a protective effect on the development of cancer cells due to the reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress, not to mention its tendency to promote blood sugar balance and a healthier weight.
5. Prevent or treat diabetes
Evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet is an anti-inflammatory dietary pattern, which may help fight diseases related to chronic inflammation, including metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet might be so beneficial for diabetes prevention is that it controls excess insulin, a hormone that controls sugar levels in blood, causes us to gain weight and maintain it despite dieting.
By regulating blood sugar levels through a balance of whole foods, containing healthy fatty acids, sources quality protein and carbohydrates low in sugar, the body burns fat more efficiently and has more energy. A diet low in sugar and high in fresh produce and fat is part of a natural diabetic diet plan.
The Mediterranean diet is higher in fat than the standard Western diet, but more low in saturated fat. It usually consists of a ratio of 40% complex carbohydrates, 30 at 000 % healthy fats and 20 to 30 % quality protein foods. Because this balance is ideal for controlling weight gain and hunger, it is a good way for the body to stay in hormonal homeostasis, which helps normalize insulin levels. In addition, it means that a person’s mood is more likely to stay positive and relaxed, their energy levels are higher, and physical activity is easier.
Although some Mediterranean diets include a good dose of carbohydrates – in the form of pasta or bread, for example – being active and consuming very little sugar means that insulin resistance remains rare in these countries. The Mediterranean style of eating helps avoid spikes and dips in blood sugar, which sap energy and affect mood. All of these different factors contribute to the diabetes-preventing abilities of this diet.
Most Mediterranean people eat a balanced breakfast within an hour or two of waking up, which helps them helps you start the day off right by balancing blood sugar when it’s at its lowest. Then they usually eat three meals a day which are filling, with lots of fiber and healthy fats. Many people choose to eat their largest meal in the middle of the day rather than in the evening, allowing them to use these foods for energy while they are still active.
6. Protects cognitive health and may improve your mood
The Mediterranean diet could be a natural treatment for Parkinson’s disease, a great way to preserve your memory and a step in the right direction to treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia naturally. Cognitive impairment can occur when the brain does not get enough dopamine, an important chemical needed for body movement, mood regulation, and thought processing. Healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, along with plenty of anti-inflammatory vegetables and fruits, are known to fight age-related cognitive decline. They help counteract the damaging effects of exposure to toxicity, free radicals, poor eating habits that cause inflammation, or food allergies, all of which can contribute to impaired brain function. This is one reason why adherence to the Mediterranean diet is linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir also contribute to gut health, which we now know is linked to cognitive function, memory and mood disorders.
7. May help you live longer!
A diet rich in fresh plant foods and healthy fats seems to be the winning combination for longevity. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and some nuts, are the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. Repeated studies show that monounsaturated fats are associated with lower levels of heart disease, cancers, depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory diseases, etc. These are currently the main causes of death in developed countries, especially heart disease.
In the famous Lyon Diet Heart Study, people who suffered a heart attack between 1988 and 1990 were advised to either follow the standard diet after a heart attack, which greatly reduces saturated fat, or following a Mediterranean diet. After about four years, follow-up results showed that people following the Mediterranean diet had 45% less heart disease, or about three times the risk reduction achieved by most prescription cholesterol-lowering drugs! People following the Mediterranean diet also had a 45% lower risk of death from all causes than the group following the standard low-carb diet. fats.
These results held true even though cholesterol levels did not change much, showing that heart disease is not just about cholesterol. The results of the Lyon study were so impressive and groundbreaking that the study had to be terminated prematurely for ethical reasons, so that all participants could follow the higher-fat Mediterranean-style diet and reap the rewards. in terms of longevity.
8. Helps to de-stress and relax
Another influencing factor is that this diet encourages people to spend time in nature, sleep well and relax. gather around a healthy home-cooked meal, which is a great way to relieve stress and, therefore, prevent inflammation. In general, people in these regions make sure to spend a lot of time in nature, to eat in the company of family and friends (rather than alone or on the go), and to set aside time for laughter, dancing, gardening and pursue hobbies. We all know that chronic stress can affect your quality of life, as well as your weight and your health. Those on this diet have the luxury of eating at a slow pace, eating delicious local foods almost every day, and engaging in regular physical activity as well – other important factors that help maintain a good mood.
Furthermore, the history of the Mediterranean diet includes the love and fascination for wine, especially red wine, which is considered beneficial and protective in moderation. For example, red wine can help fight obesity, among other benefits. This smart choice of a healthy lifestyle allows you to live longer without chronic complications and without stress-related diseases, such as those caused by hormonal imbalances, fatigue, inflammation and weight gain.
9. May help fight depression
A study by 2018 published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry found evidence that healthy food choices, those consistent with eating the Mediterranean diet, can help reduce the risk of depression. Researchers involved in the study looked at the mental health effects of adhering to a range of diets, including the Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet), and the Inflammation Index food. They found that the risk of depression was reduced the most when people followed a traditional Mediterranean diet and ate a variety of anti-inflammatory foods overall.
How anti-inflammatory foods help- do they improve mood and mental health? Inflammation is often cited as the root cause of many mood disorders and psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and social withdrawal. The same lifestyle habits that tend to activate inflammation also tend to produce brain states that contribute to mental illness. A nutrient-dense diet appears to directly help protect certain parts of the brain, while other diet and lifestyle changes, such as good sleep, mindful approach to meals, planning meals in advance and limiting stress, can also lead to a calmer state of mind.
The Mediterranean diet in secondary prevention of coronary heart disease
Cancer prevention in Europe: the Mediterranean diet as a protective choice
Mediterranean diet and metabolic syndrome: the evidence
Mediterranean diet and risk for Alzheimer’s disease
Healthy Dietary Choices May Reduce the Risk of Depression
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