The Mediterranean diet, a popular lifestyle choice with ancient roots, has been loved by foodies and nutritionists for decades. It includes regular consumption of delicious, freshly prepared whole foods served with moderate amounts of dairy and red wine. These foods are popular with people who are turned off by restrictive and flavorless eating plans.
The diet also encourages regular physical and social activity as an investment in “good living.” Many doctors believe that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent physical and mental ailments like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, inflammation and depression.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
Mediterranean eating plans are based on traditional meals prepared by the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. In the 1960s, researchers noticed that the populations of Southern Italy, Crete and Greece enjoyed good health and longevity even without regular medical care. They theorized that eating whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables while engaging in an active, socially engaged lifestyle contributed to overall wellness.
Since foods vary from region to region, many people use the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, created in 1993, as a guide to meal planning.
Today’s healthiest food plans: Low-FODMAP meal delivery, the Mediterranean diet and plans to manage hypertension — encourage daily plant-based eating. Many plans encourage home cooking, but they also make room for options like Mediterranean diet meal delivery that is more practical for busy people. Herbs and spices add flavor to beans and vegetable dishes. Olive oil, nuts, avocados and oily fish are healthy fats that contribute to vitamin and mineral absorption, reduced inflammation and cell repair.
When you adopt the Mediterranean diet, you can consume moderate quantities of fish and seafood and smaller quantities of dairy, poultry and eggs a few times a week.
Most people should eat red meat sparingly. Drinking plenty of water is encouraged. It may be fine to have a glass or two of wine with your meal every day, depending on your weight and relationship to alcohol.
People who follow the Mediterranean diet avoid refined sugars and grains, processed foods and saturated animal fats. The diet encourages you to eat in accordance with your ideal weight and current activity level. It is up to you to determine the appropriate portion sizes for your body.
How Can the Mediterranean Diet Benefit Your Overall Health?
The benefits of adopting the Mediterranean diet are backed up by science. Studies show that this eating plan can extend your lifespan and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes by increasing antioxidant activity, regulating blood sugar and reducing weight and inflammation.
1. Cognitive Health
Eating the antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables that make up the bulk of the Mediterranean diet can prevent and reduce cell damage and inflammation. Researchers believe that following the diet can improve cognition, slow memory loss and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. They propose that regularly eating the right foods can help the brain maintain effective energy use over time. The benefits are maximized when the Mediterranean diet is integrated with regular exercise and other healthy habits.
2. Cardiovascular Health
Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and olive oil can reduce the risk of heart disease by nearly 30%. The Mayo Clinic notes that the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and other plants can help lower cholesterol levels, while the omega-3 acids found in fatty fish can help lower triglyceride levels and reduce the incidence of arterial plaque buildup, blood clotting and heart failure. Research also associates the Mediterranean diet with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of stroke in women.
The Mediterranean diet helps regulate blood sugar, lowering the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Current diabetics can benefit from the diet as well. Eating high-fiber greens, fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains causes sugar to enter your bloodstream slowly, improving insulin sensitivity. The flexibility of the diet can also make it easier for you to share meals with friends and family. Increasing daily activity and reducing refined sugars and grains consumption are also key to successful diabetes management.
4. Mental Health
The antioxidants and monounsaturated fats in the Mediterranean diet can help maintain healthy brain tissue. An Australian study found that following the diet reduced symptoms of depression in men under 25 years of age. It’s possible that the fiber and diversity of nutrients found in the diet can help increase your gut’s biodiversity, which can positively affect your mental health.
5. Immune System Support
The anti-inflammatory properties of foods in the Mediterranean diet can help protect against cancer and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3 acids can be used as a complement to medication to help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms like pain and swelling around the joints. Phytonutrients found in extra-virgin olive oil may significantly lower the risk of breast cancer, while high-fiber foods can reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Practice Moderation for Best Results
The benefits of adopting a Mediterranean food plan are clear and easy to recognize, so long as you can maintain a balanced lifestyle. Avocados, olive oil and nuts can increase satiety, but these foods do have a high caloric density. If you continue to eat refined grains and sugars or drink heavily while on the Mediterranean diet, you may gain weight unless you practice portion control or monitor your caloric intake.
Try the Mediterranean Diet for a Beautiful Life
The Mediterranean diet is a tried-and-true lifestyle that can benefit adults of any age or gender. The great thing about this food plan is that you and your friends and family can enjoy it fully without feeling guilt or deprivation.
Sharing good food with loved ones is one of the best ways to stay happy and healthy. Well-prepared foods within the diet can be savory, delightful and satisfying. Over time, the Mediterranean diet may reduce your sugar cravings so you can enjoy the occasional sweet treat without repercussions.
Adopting the Mediterranean diet can help you manage stress effortlessly and bring harmony to your life. There’s every reason to consider making the Mediterranean diet a joyful and effective investment in your overall health.