As much as a trip to the Mediterranean would be nice – unfortunately for most of us, it’s not on the cards right now. The Mediterranean diet, however, is most definitely within reach and can offer some pretty impressive health benefits to boot.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Essentially, the Mediterranean diet mimics the eating habits of the Greek, Italian and Spanish cultures in the 1960s. Not so much a ‘diet’ per se, there are no hard and fast rules, but the diet does have certain hallmarks.
Fresh, plant-based foods feature heavily within this eating pattern – think fruits, vegetables, legumes and beans, cereals, nuts and healthy fats from sources such as olive oil. Intake of fish and poultry is moderate, and sweets, red meat and processed meats are kept to a minimum.
There are also key lifestyle elements that help to define exactly what the Mediterranean diet is. The importance of community (and in particular, the sharing of meals), as well as making adequate time for exercise and rest are key factors that make the diet so popular.
What are the benefits of the Mediterranean diet?
There are a multitude of benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. Some of the benefits include:
- Decreased risk of heart disease: adopting a Mediterranean diet can assist with reducing your risk of heart disease and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. In fact, February 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 30%, compared to regular low fat diets. This is largely attributable to the low levels of trans and saturated fats associated with the diet, and the inclusion of mono- and polyunsaturated fats which feature prominently.
- Decreased risk of diabetes: the fruit, vegetable and fibre-rich nature of the Mediterranean diet may be of benefit to those who are at risk of developing, or indeed, have already developed Type 2 diabetes. When it comes to wholegrains, in particular, they tend to have a lower GI than processed grains – key for managing blood glucose levels.
- Reduced risk of cognitive decline: Published studies suggest that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with slower cognitive decline and lower risk of developing Alzheimer disease.
- Flexible & suitable for all: given that the diet quite simply encourages the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods, adequate rest and exercise – it’s a great philosophy for the whole family. It allows flexibility to cater to individual tastes and preferences, and the odd treat here and there too.
Tell us – do you follow the Mediterranean diet?
Intended as general advice only. Consult your health care provider to discuss any specific concerns.