For thousands of years, people living along the Mediterranean coast have been sustained on a high fiber diet of vegetables and fruits, coupled with quality fats, proteins and the occasional glass of wine.
Beginning in Italy and extending to Greece, Turkey, Spain, and other regions around the Mediterranean, this diet has now earned a reputation for promoting health and longevity all over the world.
A typical Mediterranean diet includes a lot of vegetables, fruits, beans, cereals and cereal products. All of this produce is readily available in the region, along with moderate amounts of fish, white meat and some dairy.
The Mediterranean diet has long been known as one of the healthiest diets, but it is more than just a diet, it is actually of a way of life.
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid clearly illustrates that aside from the consumption of mainly fresh and homegrown food instead of processed goods, other fundamental elements to this diet are daily exercise, partaking meals with others, and encouraging an appreciation and enjoyment of eating healthy and delicious food.
It appears that it is the overall diet approach and the mixture of foods, rather than individual ‘super foods’, that make this such a healthy way to eat. It’s the combination of all these components that seems to deliver health benefits.
So if you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, here are 5 benefits of following a mediterranean diet to help you decide if this diet is right for you.
1. It promotes a healthy heart
Although this diet isn’t actually low in fat, most of the fats in the diet are monounsaturated, or "good" fats. They don't raise cholesterol and blood pressure levels the same way saturated fats do.
Olive oil, which is practically a staple in almost every Mediterranean dish, is very high in alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found to decrease the risk of cardiac death by 30% and sudden cardiac death by 45%.
A research from the Warwick Medical School compared between people eating more sunflower oil and those consuming more extra-virgin olive oil. It was concluded that the olive oil decreases blood pressure by significantly higher amounts.
It is worthy to note that although sometimes having low cholesterol levels is worse than having high levels, people in the Mediterranean don’t usually struggle to maintain healthy cholesterol levels either since they obtain plenty of healthy fats from their diet.
2. It fights cancer
The cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet is plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables. These are known to fight cancer in every way by naturally providing antioxidants, protecting DNA from damage, arresting cell mutation, decreasing inflammation and delaying tumor growth.
Olive oil may in fact be a natural cancer cure. Many studies point to the fact that it may have a protective effect on the development of cancer cells as a result of reduced inflammation and lowered oxidative stress. It also has the tendency to promote balanced blood sugar levels and healthier weight.
Based on the report by the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, “The biological mechanisms for cancer prevention associated with the Mediterranean diet have been related to the favorable effect of a balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids and high amounts of fiber, antioxidants and polyphenols found in fruit, vegetables, olive oil and wine.”
3. It protects against diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is basically low in sugar. The only sugar present usually comes from fruit, wine and the occasional locally made dessert. Soda and sweetened drinks aren’t nearly as popular as they are in other countries.
Some Mediterranean diets include a good deal of carbohydrates, such as pasta or bread, but by being active and consuming very low levels of sugar, insulin resistance remains rare in people who consume this diet regularly. The Mediterranean style of eating helps prevent peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels.
4. It reduces the risks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
Healthy fats in olive oil and nuts, plus plenty of anti-inflammatory veggies and fruits help counter the harmful effects of exposure to toxicity, free radicals, inflammation-causing poor diets or food allergies, which can all contribute to impaired brain function. This is one reason why the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower rates of Alzheimer’s.
In the same manner, eating the Mediterranean way might also be a natural Parkinson’s disease treatment. It may be a great way to preserve your memory, and a step in the right direction for naturally treating Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
5. It helps with weight loss
A scientific study published in 2016 in The American Journal of Medicine compared the Mediterranean diet to other diets.
Overweight or obese people who followed a Mediterranean diet for 12 or more months were found to lose an average of 9 to 22 pounds. It was evident that people who followed a Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who followed a low-fat diet.
Compared to other Western diets, the Mediterranean diet is often seen by others as a bit of a mystery. Although fat consumption is high, the prevalence of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes has always been significantly lower in people who regularly consume a Mediterranean diet.
For these reasons, almost all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.
Choosing a Mediterranean diet isn’t going to be an actual traditional “diet” or a quick fix.
It offers varied flavors and food options, and it covers all major food groups. It is one diet that you can maintain over the course of your lifetime.
The Mediterranean diet is all about a series of sustainable and healthy lifestyle choices that can get you to your weight loss goal while you eat delicious, flavorful foods, and enjoy life in the process.