What’s going on my health conscious people? If you have been following our blogs recently, you know that we are ending our series of popular diets with the long awaited Mediterranean Diet. Of the diets that have been discussed during this series, the Mediterranean is the least restrictive diet because there are technically no rules to follow. As a nutritionist, I know how difficult it can be to change one’s diet overnight. Quitting certain foods “cold tofu” is also not very sustainable if a person’s goal is to make permanent lifestyle changes. Similar to the Mediterranean Diet, I often encourage my clients to add to their current diets rather than immediately subtract things. By adding more fruits, vegetables, protein, fiber, and healthy fats, a person feels less intimidated to take the steps necessary to change their diet permanently.
What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is adopted from foods traditionally eaten by countries that border the Mediterranean Sea like Italy, France, Spain, Croatia, and Greece. It has been proven that individuals in these areas are generally healthier, have higher life expectancies, and have lower risks for chronic conditions like heart disease. Despite the fact that the diet does not have any strict rules to follow, it does encourage people to include more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, seeds, and healthy fats. The diet also discourages processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains.
Although there are no rules to follow, an easy way to remember the rules of thumb are:
Eat vegetables and fruit often
Eat poultry, eggs, and dairy in moderation
Eat red meat, added sugars, processed foods, refined grains/oils rarely
Evidence of the benefits of eating a diet comparable to the Mediterranean Diet are people who live in the “Blue Zones”. The National Geographic Explorer, Dan Buettner introduced the concept of Blue Zones after extracting data from an epidemiological study named the Journal of Experimental Gerontology. The findings from this study Blue Zones are areas of the world that have the highest number of people who live to be 100 years old. Learn more about “Blue Zones” here. In these Blue zones, people were found to live longer and better qualities of life. The areas in these Blue Zones are Icaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Nuoro Province, Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.
- Secures Brain Function: The mediterranean diet protects brain functioning by including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and limits saturated fats, processed foods, and red meats. The diet is also shown to boost a person’s mood by incorporating fruits and vegetables which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber may aid reduce anxiety and depression. The diet also promotes good gut health which improves mood.
- Encourages Better Sleep: Studies suggest that following a mediterranean diet can encourage more and better quality of sleep. The diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are known to aid in the production of the hormone melatonin which controls sleep.
- Lower Inflammation In The Body: The diet has anti-inflammatory benefits because it encourages plant-based foods, whole grains, and healthy fats that have all been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.
- Increase Lifespan: Mentioned above in the section that explains the “Blue Zones,” people who adhere to the Mediterranean diet can increase their life expectancy by 6 years. The diet is associated with the reduced risk of all-cause, cause-specific death.
- Reduce Risk For Heart Disease: Individuals who follow the diet have a lower risk for heart disease. Many studies have proven the association between the mediterranean diet and lowering the risk for heart disease specifically amongst women. By limiting saturated and trans fats in the diet, LDL or bad cholesterol is lower as a result decreasing plaque build up in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks or stroke.
- Lowers Risk For Prostate Cancer: The mediterranean diet promotes higher levels of the micronutrients selenium and beta carotene. These nutrients specific to the diet, are associated with reduced inflammation and less oxidative damage. For this reason, these nutrients are known to provide protective benefits against cancer.
- Potential Weight Gain: The diet promotes eating more than the recommended amounts of healthy fats such as olive oils and nuts which can lead to weight gain.
- Lower Iron Levels: The Mediterranean diet encourages people to limit the amount of red meat that they consume which can cause lower iron levels in some people.
- Possible Calcium Loss: The diet encourages individuals to eat fewer dairy products which can result in calcium loss.
As we conclude our series of popular diets, we are now well versed on the pros and cons of the Keto, Paleo, and Mediterranean diets. Like always, we encourage our readers to consult with their doctor or nutritionist before making any changes to their diets. We have had so much fun researching these popular diets as we often get many questions about many popular diets and if they are “safe” or “sustainable”. After reading about these diets with us, we are left with these questions: Which diet best fits your lifestyle and health goals? Are you looking for quick results? Do you want to eat like a Caveman? or Would you like to live longer? Let us know what you think in the comments or send us an email at email@example.com!
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