The Mediterranean diet was awarded first place as the best diet by US News and World Report in 2019. The diet followed in the Mediterranean region (France, Italy, Spain, and Greece) offers various health benefits such as reducing the risk of cancer, protecting the heart, and regulating weight. It is also said to keep people active and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and type 2 diabetes.
No wonder more people are turning to the Mediterranean diet to tackle their health problems.
That said, it does make us wonder how this is possible. What sets the Mediterranean diet apart from the rest? What makes it so healthy despite the inclusion of foods that are considered not-so-healthy in other diets? Let’s try to get the answers to these questions.
The Mediterranean diet is not based on calories. It is more of a way of life or an eating pattern. Living close to the Mediterranean Sea certainly helps, but you can follow this diet irrespective of your geographical location.
The diet basically consists of eating fresh and wholesome food. Fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits, legumes, nuts, seafood, olive oil, and dairy products are an inherent part of the Mediterranean diet. Oh, yes, how can we not mention red wine?
But… we can hear what you’re thinking. The concept of the Mediterranean diet relies on enjoying the meal, moderating the intake, and being active throughout the day. No matter how much you like red wine, you don’t down multiple glasses of it every day. The Mediterranean folk have a glass of wine with food, and they have their meals with family members, which many of them claim is the secret for their good health.
People who follow the Mediterranean diet avoid processed foods with unhealthy fats, high sugars, and refined carbohydrates. It’s not like they don’t eat cakes and cookies at all. They do.
Remember that the Mediterranean diet is not the same throughout the region. Each country has its own diet, which is further tweaked as we go to the various states, cities, and villages.
The New England Journal of Medicine brought out the findings of a random clinical trial in 2013. The trial was conducted for five years with 7000 men and women in Spain. The chosen people were either at high risk for type 2 diabetes or heart-related diseases.
It was found that those who were on the Mediterranean diet with nuts and olive oil had a 30% lower risk of heart attacks. They lived on a low-fat diet that included fresh seafood and fresh vegetables.
Another study in 2018 by Stroke journal found that the results of the Mediterranean diet were more prominent in women than men. Though the research couldn’t explain why this was the case, the researchers involved say that it could be due to the different heart strokes that affect men and women.
A diet that’s good for the heart can also be good for the brain. The 2016 review in Frontiers of Nutrition concluded that the Mediterranean diet works well to reduce cognitive diseases and keep the brain healthy. This leads to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in older people.
The Mediterranean diet is loaded with antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties. It also has more fiber and nutrients. This helps in regulating weight, especially in women. Women who follow this diet were said to have smaller waists and thighs. The fiber controls blood sugar and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, which again helps maintain a healthy weight.
There’s a misconception that the Mediterranean diet is expensive and includes exotic foods. However, that’s not true. You can create healthy meals within your budget by relying on legumes, beans, lentils, etc., for protein. Plants and whole grains are good sources of protein.
Olive oil plays a major role and is used extensively. So, you need to be quite vigilant when you replicate the same quantities of olive oil in your diet. Unless you cut down your intake of other calorie-based foods like sweets, sugar, and desserts, you cannot increase your consumption of olive oil.
Seafood is compulsory and needs to be eaten at least twice a week. Fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, and black cod are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Increase your intake of fresh and seasonal vegetables. Salads and soups are one way to consume vegetables. Replacing meat with vegetables and mushrooms on pizza is another.
Restrict pasta to a small serving and add more salads to the dinner plate. Eat healthily, be active, and stay energetic all day.
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