The Mediterranean Diet (Diet) reminds me of my mother’s cooking. She is of French descent and cooked meals with the same ingredients with what we now call the Mediterranean Diet. We had a healthy diet of vegetables, olive oil, plant salads, fish, poultry, and grains. The nutrients from the plant foods came from our garden, in fact all the neighbors had gardens, packed with vegetables and berries. People were happy, shared their bounty and got together to socialize. It was all face-to-face relationships and not the distant relationships via text messaging and emails we experience today. The Mediterranean neighborhood was brought to our neighborhood.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet was first defined by Ancel Keys as being low in saturated fat and high in vegetable oils as found in Greece and Southern Italy during the 1960s. Since then the Keys’ definition has developed and evolved.
The Mediterranean Diet has common food types and healthful habits from the tradition of several different regions, including Greece, Spain, southern France, Portugal, and Italy.
Studies have found that those who live in the Mediterranean area or follow this type of diet have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The Diet is associated with positive health outcomes and longevity. It includes fresh fish and vegetables, unsaturated fats, oily fish, a moderate intake of dairy, and a low consumption of meat and added sugar.
I have be unable to find a single definition of the Mediterranean Diet, but one study that reviewed an extensive amount of literature found that it can be described in four ways: 1) a general descriptive definitions, and 2) diet pyramids/numbers of servings of key foods; 3) grams of key foods/food groups; and 4) nutrient and flavonoid content.
This study found that the Mediterranean Diet consists of high quantities of:
The Diet does not include strong liquor, carbonated and sweetened drinks, but red wine in moderation is o.k. and red meat is acceptable in limited portions.
The baseline diet provides about 2,200 calories a day. This suggests that people should get, on average, the right number of calories per day. An average women needs about 2000 calories per day to keep their weight even, and men need about 2500 calories to maintain their wait.
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The Mediterranean Diet contains many essential nutrients and food groups with a high focus on plant foods and fresh produce (right out of the garden). Consider for example:
Reduced saturated fat groups. The Diet is high on monounsaturated fat and low on saturated fat. The impact of this is directly related to a reduction in cholesterol, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
High Fiber Content. A diet that is chuck full of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and legumes is high in fiber. Health experts suggest that a high fiber diet promotes healthy digestion and may reduce the risk of bowel cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Promotes Vitamins and Minerals. Vitamins and minerals are found in fresh fruits and vegetables which the body needs for healthy functioning. A nice balance to an entirely plant-based diet is the addition of vitamin B-12 found in lean meats.
Antioxidant Cleansing. We now know that antioxidants which include vitamins, minerals and other molecules help remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals, sometimes known as radicals are organic molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage and possibly some diseases. The molecules are very unstable, bond with other molecules, thereby destroying their health and further continuing the damaging process. Antioxidants gleaned from plant foods help protect the body by removing free radicals.
Reduced Sugar. The Diet is low in added sugar and relies on the natural sugar from fresh fruits. Added sugar contributes of calory intake and increases the risk of obesity and its subsequent complications. The American Heart Association suggests an added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men. There’s no nutritional need or benefit that comes from eating added sugar. (See also T.H. Chan article from the Harvard Scholl of Public Health).
Sugar from fruits, eaten in moderation provides the body with healthy doses of sugar. Ten good fruits to add to a diet include: strawberries, oranges, limes, blackberries, blueberries, pomegranate, bananas, avocado, lemons and pineapple.
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The Benefits of Mediterranean Diet.
Weight Loss: The Diet is not promoted as a weight loss diet but the overall diet may lead to weight loss as a result of increase in fiber intake and reduced intake of red meats, animal fats and process foods.
A Healthy Heart. The jury is still out as to whether the Mediterranean Diet directly correlates to a reduction in heart disease, but the food groupings identified in the diet reflect those promoted by the American Heart Association. The cautionary note that AHA has about the Mediterranean Diet is whether the benefits come from the food itself or other factors found in the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Be that as it may, several studies do show that the food groupings found in a Mediterranean Diet leads to healthy cholesterol levels, reduced high blood pressure and improved cardiovascular disease.
Strengthens Brain Power. Foods filled with antioxidants, like nuts and olive oil, may help delay mental decline, dementia and overall boosting brain power.
Longevity. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of fruits, vegetables and legumes may help combat oxidative damage linked to aging.
Skin Health. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, keep skin cells strong and elastic.
Bone Health. Since olive oil plays a strong role in the Diet it may preserve bone density due to the compounds found in olive oil. One study found that the overall patterns found in the Mediterranean Diet have shown to benefit bone health.
Manage diabetes and control blood sugar. The foods found in the Diet have proven to benefit those for suffer from diabetes. It might also be able to prevent type 2 diabetes and can help to control the levels of blood sugar in those who already have it.
Cancer Protection. A recent review and meta-analysis (2017) concluded that the Diet may offer protection from certain types of cancers, especially colorectal cancer. The authors suggest that the preventative measures arising from the food variety found within it may have contributed to this result.
Diabetes. The American Diabetes Associates points out that people respond differently to different types of foods and diets, so the there isn’t a magical diet for diabetes. However the nutrition and food groupings found in the Mediterranean diet may help to reduce type 2 diabetes and improve markers of diabetes in people who already have the condition.
The Vegetarian and the Mediterranean Diet
Vegetarians are those whose diet consists mainly of vegetables and fruit. Studies have shown that those who adhere to a vegetarian diet have a lower prevalence of overweight and obesity and a lower risk of IHD compared with non-vegetarians from a similar background, whereas the data are equivocal for stroke. For cancer, there is some evidence that the risk for all cancer sites combined is slightly lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians, but findings for individual cancer sites are inconclusive. Vegetarians have also been found to have lower risks for diabetes, diverticulitis disease and eye cataract. Because the Diet is heavily weighted with vegetables and fruits it could be a choice for vegetarians.
So what is my bottom line about the Mediterranean Diet? My mother was right! “Eat at your vegies, fruit, nuts and legumes,” she said, “and go easy on the red meat and enjoy your chicken and fish.”. Try the Mediterranean Diet it just may be the right diet for you.
Want to create your own Mediterranean Diet: Go Here.
Note: This is a review page and I am an affiliate of the “The Mediterranean Diet Plan”
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