The Mediterranean Diet may sound familiar to you. You may have read about it or have been recommended to follow a Mediterranean-style diet by your doctor or even a friend/family member. But what exactly is it and why is it beneficial?
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
According to the American Heart Association, the Mediterranean diet has been ranked as one of the best diets “year-after-year.” The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating inspired by the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, like Italy and Greece. It is not a fad, or restrictive diet, but rather one that is rich in whole grains, legumes, nuts, healthy fats, fruits, lean meats, and vegetables. The diet is mainly plant-based, meaning most of the foods consumed come from plants, and the primary fat source is olive oil. The preferred protein sources are fish and seafood. There are some other animal proteins included in the diet, such as poultry, eggs and dairy, but they are typically eaten in smaller amounts. Red meat is also included but eaten infrequently – perhaps a few times per month.
1. Reduces risk for cardiovascular disease.
The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. A study done on approximately twenty-six thousand women showed that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had a 25% decrease in risk for cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is a condition that refers to disorders of the heart and blood vessels. A diet high in saturated fats has been shown to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. The Mediterranean does not eliminate saturated fats, however the amounts are meant to be limited. The diet also includes other heart health factors such as high fiber, antioxidant and healthy fat intake.
2. Decreases cell damage from stress and inflammation
Stress and inflammation may lead to cell damage, which affects life expectancy, certain diseases, and cognitive function. The Mediterranean Diet contains many sources of antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fatty fish. High antioxidant intake may have a significant effect in decreasing the amount of cell damage in the body.
3. May help with weight loss
The Mediterranean Diet does not only suggest eating patterns, but it also suggests movement. The Mediterranean Diet recommends trying to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week. This can include walk, running, lifting, swimming, and more. A study conducted in 2018 found that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet reduced the risk of abdominal obesity.
The Bottom Line
The Mediterranean Diet has been around for many years and has been ranked one of the top diets year-by-year. This eating pattern is mostly plant-based and focuses on healthy fats, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This diet also includes recommendations for physical activity. By following the Mediterranean Diet, it may help to decrease in the risk of cardiovascular diseases, decrease cell damage from stress and inflammation, and aid in healthy weight maintenance.
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Written by: Janeza Bridges, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern