What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
Chances are you have heard of the Mediterranean diet. However, your doctor may indeed have recommended it to you, If you have a chronic condition like heart disease or high blood pressure. It’s frequently promoted to drop the threat of heart disease, depression, and dementia.
The traditional diets of countries skirting the Mediterranean Sea differ slightly so there are different versions of the Mediterranean diet. Still, in 1993 the Harvard School of Public Health, Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust, and the European Office of the World Health Organization introduced the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid as a companion to help familiarize people with the most common foods of the region. It’s more of an eating pattern than a rigorously regimented diet plan, the pyramid emphasized certain foods grounded on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece, and southern Italy during themid-20th century.
At that time, these countries displayed low rates of chronic disease and higher than average adult life expectancy despite having limited access to healthcare. It was believed that the diet- substantially fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, olive oil, small quantities of dairy, and red wine- contribute to their health benefits.
The Pyramid also stressed daily exercise and the beneficial social aspects of eating together.
The Mediterranean diet promotes heart healthy eating. It incorporates the basics of healthy eating with other components that characterize the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mediterranean diet is essentially following the eating habits of those who live in the Mediterranean region. It includes generous portions of fresh produce, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats and fish. The American Heart Association notes that the average Mediterranean diet contains a high quantity of calories from fat. Over half of the calories from the fat comes from monounsaturated fats. Therefore, the diet may not be good for individuals who need to limit the number of fats they consume.
The Benefits of The Mediterranean Diet
Prevents heart disease and strokes:
The diet limits the intake of refined bread, processed foods and red meat. It also encourages drinking red wine as opposed to hard liquor.
Keeps older adults agile:
The nutrients in the Mediterranean diet may reduce the risks of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty by about 70%.
Reduces the risk of Alzheimers and Dementia:
The Mediterranean diet may help to make cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and overall blood vessel health better. This, in turn, helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimers disease or dementia.
Halving the risk of Parkinson’s Disease:
Due to the high levels of antioxidants in the Mediterranean diet, the cells in the body are prevented from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress. This cuts the risk of Parkinson’s disease in half.
The Disadvantages of The Mediterranean Diet
There are a few disadvantages of the Mediterranean diet as it’s well-balanced and researched. Nonetheless, there are a few. They include:
Although the diet doesn’t include pricey branded foods or special supplements, fish and other seafoods can be quite costly.
Diabetics may need additional guidance:
Although the diet can help reduce the risks of diabetes, people with diabetes may need additional guidance. This is because of the emphasis placed on the consumption of grains, fruits, and vegetables (including starchy vegetables). Diabetics need to limit their consumption of carbohydrates to avoid spikes in blood sugar.
Restrictions may feel challenging:
Some of us find it hard to reduce the consumption of red meat and added sugar. An individual who is struggling with eating less red meat can eat it in smaller portions on a less regular basis.
Foods To Eat on the Mediterranean Diet
The foods that form the mediterranean diet have been a controversial topic because it varies among countries. However, most studies have concluded that the diet is high in healthy plant foods and relatively low in animal foods. Nonetheless, it’s recommended that fish and seafood be consumed about twice a week.
The following healthy, unprocessed Mediterranean foods can be consumed:
- Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, etc.
- Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches, etc.
- Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazlenuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, African yams, etc.
- Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
- Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crabs, mussels, etc.
- Chicken, duck, turkey, etc
- Chicken, quail, and duck eggs
- Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc
- Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
- Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, avocado oil.
Foods To Avoid on Mediterranean Diet
The following foods should be avoided:
- Sweets, ice cream, sugar
- White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
- Trans fats in margarine and other processed foods
- Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and others
- Processed sausages, hot dogs, etc
- Highly processed foods
How The Mediterranean Diet Works
The Mediterranean diet is primarily a plant-based eating plan that includes daily intakes of olive oil, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and other legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices. Foods like animal proteins are eaten in smaller quantities, with the preferred animal proteins of fish and seafood. While the pyramid suggests the portion of foods to eat (ie: more fruits and vegetables and less dairy foods), it doesn’t specify specific amounts or portion sizes. It is left up to the individual person to decide exactly how much food to eat at each meal, as this will vary by body size and physical activity level.
What makes the Mediterranean Diet unique:
- There’s an emphasis on healthy fats. Olive oil is the primary added fat recommended and replaces other oils and fats like butter and margarine. Other foods naturally containing healthy fats are used such as avocados, nuts, oily fish such as sardines, salmon, as well as walnuts and figs that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- It’s recommended to eat fish at least twice weekly and other animal proteins like eggs, dairy, and poultry in smaller portions either daily or a few times per week.
- Choose water as your main daily beverage but also allow a moderate intake of wine with meals- about 1-2 glasses a day for men and one glass per day for women.
- Daily physical activity through enjoyable activities.