It’s still February and American Heart Month – especially right now, you may have heard plenty about the Mediterranean Diet but do you know exactly how it could improve your health? There are lots of benefits linked to this way of eating – some of which can be hugely impressive and can potentially protect against some nasty health problems. However, it’s not for everyone. Below, I’ll discuss some of the big reasons why you may want to follow a Mediterranean diet plan.
It can keep you healthy
The Mediterranean diet may be one of the best eating plans if you’re looking to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s and even cancer. According to research, people who eat a Mediterranean diet are less likely to be affected by these types of conditions. Food can be medicine or poison…eating mediterranean could be a very effective medicine for many chronic conditions!
It’s anti inflammatory
A lot of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are due to the fact that it is a very anti inflammatory eating plan. It’s also very unprocessed and naturally low in salt and sugar, all of which would increase inflammation.
Olive oil is a staple and is a big part of the anti inflammatory qualities. It contains powerful antioxidants called phenols, which are hugely anti inflammatory and can fight against the damaging effects of free radicals. As you may know, free radicals are linked to lots of health problems and this may be a large part of why you can reduce your risk factor for different conditions through the Mediterranean diet. Keep in mind that RAW olive oil is good for your health, however cooking with olive oil could actually cause oxidation and increased inflammation in your body.
It can improve heart health
Want to keep your heart healthier for longer? According to research, you could do a lot worse than try the Mediterranean diet!
Studies have shown that eating a Mediterranean diet meant that people were 30% less likely to die from cardiovascular or heart disease, heart attack or stroke, even compared to a low fat diet. When a Mediterranean diet is supplemented with a fair amount of olive oil, the link was particularly strong.
There are a few theories as to why the Mediterranean diet is so strongly linked to a healthy heart. Olive oil in particular contains a few ingredients that are super important for this.
Olive oil contains oleic acid, which is super healthy for your heart. It’s involved in lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and improving “good” HDL cholesterol, according to studies.
The alpha linoleic acid (ALA) content in olive oil has also been linked to heart health. More specifically, studies suggest that it can reduce heart related deaths. The typical Mediterranean diet contains around 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in the average day, which incidentally is the same amount that is linked to better heart health!
The Mediterranean diet in general can reduce cardiac death, even for people who have already had a heart attack. In the Lyon Diet Heart Study, people who had experienced a heart attack were told to follow either a diet low in saturated fat or the Mediterranean diet. After 4 years, the group on the Mediterranean diet had suffered 70% less heart disease- which on paper, makes it much more successful than even cholesterol lowering prescription medications!
There’s another factor too and this relates to blood pressure. As another marker for heart disease, it’s always good if you can keep your blood pressure in check. The Mediterranean diet is thought to help the arteries to be more dilated, which can make a great difference for your heart health.
It can help with weight loss
Because the bulk of the Mediterranean diet involves nutritious, whole foods, it can help with natural and sustainable weight loss. Fish, poultry and dairy can all keep you feeling fuller, as do the plant based elements. You’re a lot less likely to snack if your diet contains plenty of these ingredients so you may well find that you find it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
What to eat
The bulk of the Mediterranean diet is made up of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, fish and healthy fats such as olive oil.
If you’d like to give the Mediterranean diet a try, you should stock up on:
- Fresh fruit and veggies, including leafy greens. Non starchy veggies are also a big part of the typical Mediterranean diet
- Legumes and beans, including lentils and chickpeas
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Fish, including sardines and anchovies
- Herbs and spices
- Lean protein, including poultry
- Some dairy, eggs and red meat in moderation and generally red meat isn’t eaten more than once in the average week
- Healthy fats, including olive oil
Why doesn’t everyone just follow this diet?
That’s a great question. The subject of nutrition and health is vast and indeed quite personalized for everyone. Even though we can find TONS of information with the help of Dr Google, the information that may save one person’s life can truly harm another. Even though there are a lot of pluses to the Mediterranean diet, it’s also possible that some staple items like dairy, grains, or even legumes could be harmful for many others. There are a number of other diets that are beginning to show great promise with improving health, but haven’t received quite as much publicity as the Mediterranean diet just yet. Your best bet is to take an individualized approach with your healthcare professional to figure out the correct nutrition plan for YOU. Diet is a lifestyle and if it’s not realistic for your time, budget, or current conditions, then it’s not the right lifestyle for you. Talk with your doctor and find the right nutrition plan and lifestyle regimen that will get you to your optimal state of health. It could be with the Mediterranean diet or something else…it’s all about what your body needs to be WELL – Whole, Energized, and Loving Life!