What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is touted as the world’s healthiest diet and it is simply the way of eating of individuals based around the Mediterranean Sea, including Turkey, Lebanon, Italy and Greece.
How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet
Unlike many eating plans that are filled with strict guidelines and rules, the Mediterranean Diet is more like a way of eating. The diet doesn’t have a singular definition because it varies from region to region.
However, in general, it is high in whole grains, olive oil, vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts. Fish and lean poultry sources of protein are consumed regularly and red meat in moderate amounts. Below we have outlined what you can eat on the Mediterranean diet.
What you can Eat on the Mediterranean Diet
Shifting to an entirely new diet can be daunting. However, incorporating some of the strategies below in a gradual manner can help make it more sustainable and enjoyable.
First, you can skip the coconut oil and start cooking with extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil is abundant in monounsaturated fatty acids, which may help increase HDL cholesterol, the "good" type of cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps your body get rid of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” type of cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease and other blood vessel diseases.
Another step you can take is eating more fish. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes a lot of fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. These fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the good type of fat, which provide heart, brain, lungs and circulation health benefits.
Another step you can take is incorporating more vegetables into your meals. Almost all Mediterranean dishes include some type of vegetable. For example, you can make quinoa stuffed in red bell peppers, soups loaded with vegetables or even refreshing salads that make you want to eat your veggies.
Another change you can make is ditching refined grains. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes real, whole grains that are still in their whole form and have not been altered and processed. Quinoa, brown rice, barley, oatmeal or even popcorn are all versatile whole grain options you can incorporate into a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Additionally, nuts is a big Mediterranean diet staple. Nuts are an easy snack to incorporate between meals or make a lovely addition to any meal! One study found that replacing typical American snacks with tree nuts was an effective way to increase consumption of key nutrients among US children and adults.
Finally, wine is consumed on the Mediterranean diet, but in moderation. It is advised to stick to a 3-ounce serving for women and a 5-ounce serving for men, per day.
Potential Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
1. Helps Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Because the Mediterranean diet is a high quality diet that avoids processed foods and is very high in fiber, a lot of research has shown its benefits in protecting against type 2 diabetes. In one longitudinal study spanning 20 years conducted on women, the Mediterranean diet helped reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 30 percent.
In another study conducted on 418 non-diabetic subjects, those who followed a Mediterranean diet were 52% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes after a follow up of 4 years, compared with a control group.
Furthermore, in another study, 901 participants with type 2 diabetes showed that long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet was linked to lower levels of blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C, a marker of long-term blood sugar control.
2. May help with Weight Loss
The Mediterranean diet is known for being a great weight loss diet due to it being a flexible and sustainable eating plan. Researchers have found that eating a Mediterranean diet can help reduce cardiovascular risk factor levels as well as help with weight loss.
One recent study compared the effects of a Mediterranean diet with low-fat diet, low-carbohydrate diet, or the American Diabetes Association diet over at least 1 year.
It was found that those on the Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those on the low-fat diet. Interestingly enough, those who ate the Mediterranean diet lost a similar amount of weight as people who were on a strict low-carbohydrate or the American Diabetes Association diet.
3. Improves Heart Health
Coronary Heart disease in Mediterranean countries causes fewer deaths than in the US or Northern Europe. Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
This is because the diet is rich in healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts, which reduce the risk of heart problems. One study found that the Mediterranean diet may be more effective at preventing heart disease than a low-fat diet, which has always been the biggest diet fad.
Even small changes in a diet can offer numerous health benefits when done consistently over time.
4. Reduces Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can contribute to diseases, such as heart disease, cancer or even diabetes. Research has identified certain foods that can help control inflammation. Many of them are actually part of the Mediterranean diet, which include fish, vegetables, and olive oil.
In one study, 66 adults followed the Mediterranean diet for 3-5 years. It was found that their inflammatory biomarkers decreased significantly after the period.
Potential Health Concerns of the Mediterranean Diet
Although the Mediterranean Diet is full of nutrient dense foods, is easy to follow and very sustainable, it does come with drawbacks.
For example, many individuals may find it difficult to adhere to in the beginning because it cuts out many processed and refined foods. However, while this can be a concern, it is always helpful to start gradually and adopt small changes before completely switching over to the Mediterranean diet.
Additionally, although a lot of seafood is encouraged on this diet, it may be more costly than other sources of protein, which can be difficult to adhere to for those on a budget.
Finally, while it does allow alcohol, some people may not find it suitable for their health.
Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal with sliced almonds, walnuts, raspberries, cacao nibs and a drizzle of honey.
Snack: 1 apple
Lunch: Whole wheat pita pockets with hummus, sprouts, carrots, broccoli and balsamic vinaigrette.
Snack: Greek yoghurt with strawberries
Dinner: Grilled salmon with couscous and green salad on the side with homemade balsamic dressing
Research has demonstrated the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet as a healthy eating pattern. The Mediterranean diet offers plenty of delicious yet healthiest meals out there. Because it consists of foods from all food groups, it provides you with all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs.
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