Mastering the Mediterranean Diet

With so many diets popping up, how can you choose which one is the best one to try out? Well, why not give the Mediterranean Diet a go?

This diet is based on the traditional food that people used to consume in European countries like Greece, France, Spain, and Italy back in the 1960s. Obviously, this is the basis of the name. Studies show that people who lived in these countries during this time frame were exceptionally healthy as compared to Americans. They also had lower risks of getting many diseases.

The main aspects of this diet include a high consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and unrefined cereals. They also made sure to eat a moderate or high amount of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (specifically cheese and yogurt), moderate wine intake, and low consumption of nonfish meat products.

Its History

Dr. Ancel Benjamin Keys, an American physiologist, discovered the benefits of this diet. While working on his hypothesis, he noticed that the Mediterranean region was not at all influenced by the fast rise of fast food and processed food. He was able to form his hypothesis by observing that the people living in this region were in especially good health. This was largely because of their dietary habits.

Also, aside from eating a healthy diet that consists of of fresh and homegrown food, there are other factors involved. These include daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and having a deep appreciation for the pleasures of eating nutritious and delicious food.

Mediterranean Diet Benefits

Like many other diets, this one has a number of benefits great for your body. Read on to know more about these positive effects.

Healthy Weight Loss

Since it uses nutrient-dense food, this diet manages weight and reduces fat intake naturally. It has been proven safe, sustainable, and worthwhile. This diet has been tried out by many people around the world, showing great success in healthy weight loss. It focuses on the consumption of healthy fats and high-quality proteins while keeping the intake of carbohydrates relatively low.

In addition, the Mediterranean diet is all praises for drinking red wine in moderation. And red wine helps fight against overweight and obesity.

Stress-Free and Relaxed

This diet encourages people to spend time in nature, get good sleep, and bond with family members and friends. Generally, people in the Mediterranean region make it a point to spend time outdoors, eat meals together with friends and family, and set aside time to just talk, laugh, dance, and basically enjoy life’s simple pleasures. These are great ways to decrease stress. Chronic stress kills your quality of life, along with your weight and also your health.

Brain Health

Cognitive disorders occur when the brain isn’t getting enough dopamine. This is a vital chemical necessary for proper body movements, mood regulation, and thought processing. Many of the types of food used in the Mediterranean diet are known to fight against age-related cognitive decline. This means practicing this diet naturally treats Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. It also boosts your memory.

Heart Health

Sticking to the traditional Mediterranean diet significantly reduces heart disease and decreases the risk of cardiac death by 30 percent and sudden cardiac death by 45 percent.

Olive oil consumption also decreases high blood pressure. It also lowers hypertension as it makes nitric oxide more bioavailable. This means it keeps the arteries dilated and clear. In addition, it also combats the disease-promoting effects of oxidation. And finally, it also improves endothelial function.

Diabetes Protection

This diet controls excess insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Its composition of plenty of fresh produce and fats makes it a natural diabetes cure. Also, this balanced diet is a good way for the human body to remain in hormonal homeostasis. This means the body’s insulin levels are normalized.

This practice is also low in sugar, since the only sugar present are from fruit, wine, and the occasional dessert. Consuming low levels of sugar means there is a low chance of insulin resistance. This style of eating also prevents highs and lows in blood sugar levels.

Cancer Prevention

A study from the European Journal of Cancer Prevention states, “The biological mechanisms for cancer prevention associated with the Mediterranean diet have been related to the favorable effect of a balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids and high amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and polyphenols found in fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and wine.”

These fruits and vegetables contain cancer-fighting antioxidants that protect the human DNA from damage. They also delay tumor growth, stop cell mutation, reduce oxidative stress, and lower inflammation.

Longer Life

A balance of fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats equal to longevity. The main fat source in the Mediterranean diet is monounsaturated fat. This is found in olive oil and certain nuts. This type of healthy fat is linked to lower chances of heart disease, cancer, depression, inflammatory diseases, cognitive decline, and many more. These are currently the leading causes of death in developed nations.

Fact and Fiction about the Mediterranean Diet

Fiction 1: The Mediterranean diet only focuses on the type of food to eat.

Fact: Yes, it’s true that the type of food to eat is a major factor of this diet. However, there are other important factors as well. For example, they make sure to pair their diet with the right amount of exercise. One example is walking after meals. They also make sure to actually enjoy the act of eating and savor each bite. They don’t just gobble the food.

Fiction 2: Eating huge servings of pasta and bread is the actual Mediterranean way of eating.

Fact: Many of us associate Mediterranean region with pizza, pasta, and savory breads. Therefore, we think this is what we should be eating. But in reality, Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way many Americans do. Pasta is instead a side dish, usually only about half a cup or at most one cup serving size. The rest of the plate is salads, vegetables, fish, and a small slice of bread.

Fiction 3: So you say one glass of wine is good for your heart. Wouldn’t more glasses of wine be even better?

Fact: Drinking too much wine will certainly have negative effects. Drinking more than two glasses of wine a day is actually bad for the heart.

How to Start

It’s true that the first time is the hardest. Here are a few tips to make transitioning from your usual diet into the Mediterranean diet a bit easier.

  1. Substitute your vegetable oil with olive oil. You can use this in frying, sauteing, etc.
  2. Try to add more fruit and vegetables into your diet. For example, opting for a simple salad as a side dish, snacking on fruit, and adding vegetables to your favorite vegetable-less dish.
  3. Choose whole grains instead of rice, pasta, or refined breads.
  4. Substitute your red meat with fish twice a week. Then you can gradually add more days to that.
  5. Consume more dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt.