Updated: Dec 30, 2022
While I don’t promote fad diets or restrictive diets, I am a big advocate for incorporating heart-healthy foods into your daily meals. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent example of a lifestyle choice that has proven health benefits. A Mediterranean diet can improve your heart and brain health while reducing your risk of getting several diseases, including diabetes and possibly even some cancers.
The best part of the Mediterranean diet is that it includes a ton of great-tasting foods! You don’t need to sacrifice taste for health or obsess over counting calories. In fact, I like to think of the Mediterranean diet as more of an eating pattern than a diet. As long as you eat the right foods, you will feel full and happy without ever feeling like you’re missing out.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your heart and brain health, lose weight, and still enjoy eating, the Mediterranean diet could be the perfect solution.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Instead of a diet, think of the Mediterranean diet as a food pattern that includes lots of fresh vegetables and healthy fats. You will not eat a lot of red meat (although a little bit is OK). Instead, you’ll fill up on lean poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. You’ll also fuel using generous servings of healthy fats like avocados and olive oil, and you can even enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal.
The only things you’ll stop eating on a Mediterranean plan are processed foods (which you shouldn’t be eating anyway) and unhealthy fats.
The real beauty of the Mediterranean diet is that it emphasizes how you eat more than what you eat. Mediterranean culture prioritizes eating meals with loved ones and combining meals with physical activity. These critical elements can help you live a healthier lifestyle full of great food and extra time with your loved ones.
5 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
Curious about how a Mediterranean diet can improve your health. Consider these five proven benefits.
1. Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
As a result of eating lean, whole foods in conjunction with healthy fats like olive oil found in the Mediterranean diet, followers are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Researchers have found that at-risk adults are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease when they are on a Mediterranean diet that includes nuts and olive oils than when they are on a generic low-fat diet.
2. Prevent cognitive decline
The brain relies on getting a healthy stream of oxygen-rich blood to operate at its full capacity. A Mediterranean diet can improve your vascular health, which means it can also keep your brain functioning as you age. Some research suggests that a Mediterranean diet can slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
3. Reduce frailty and increase longevity
Because a Mediterranean diet can help prevent diseases like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and others, it naturally increases your longevity. A recent study found that eating a Mediterranean diet for just one year made significant enough change to the gut microbiome to reduce frailty among aging adults, leading to a longer lifespan.
4. Can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
The Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory. As such, it can ease painful symptoms of inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The real hero of the Mediterranean diet for those who suffer from RA is Omega 3. This powerful fatty acid reduces inflammation. It’s naturally found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
5. Prevent and control type 2 diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is high in fiber, which increases the amount of time it takes for food to digest. This slow digestion prevents high swings in blood sugar, which can help stave off diabetes. For those who already have diabetes, a Mediterranean diet can help you control it and avoid blood sugar spikes.
A recent study concluded that a Mediterranean diet should be considered as part of a diabetes management strategy. In addition to providing glycemic control, the Mediterranean diet was also found to lower weight and increase HDL cholesterol levels at a higher rate than other tested diets.
Can You Lose Weight on the Mediterranean Diet?
You’ll notice that I didn’t add weight loss as one of the top five health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The truth is, if you follow the diet by eliminating processed foods and red meat while incorporating healthy fats, fresh produce, and lean meats, you’ll probably end up losing weight naturally.
On a Mediterranean diet, you won’t be eating junky processed foods loaded with calories (and who knows what else). If you are a faithful follower, you will also increase your activity levels by adding exercises, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or lifting weights.
So, yes, you can lose weight on the Mediterranean diet. But that’s not the main point. This lifestyle choice aims to improve your overall health, including your heart and brain health. Dropping a few pounds as you get healthier might be considered a bonus for some people, but it should not be your primary focus.
The overall health benefits are what I like so much about this eating pattern. It’s not something you’ll stick with only until you shed those nagging five pounds. Instead, it’s a lifestyle that will help you feel your best inside and out.
How to Start a Mediterranean Diet
As with any significant lifestyle change, it’s a good idea to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your life slowly. Trying to change too many things all at once can make it less likely that you will stick with it for the long run.
Start adding elements of the eating plan bit by bit into your day until you are more or less sticking to it 100 percent of the time.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
● Eat wild caught fish at least two times a week
● Substitute rice for quinoa
● Cook a vegetarian meal once a week
● Switch to whole-grain pasta and bread
● Eat fresh fruits instead of high-sugar desserts
● Add an extra serving of vegetables to one meal a day
● Limit yourself to only one glass of red wine per day (or eliminate alcohol altogether)
If you’re ready to make a optimize your health, let’s talk! Schedule a consultation with me today to see how we can get you back on track and living your healthiest life.
Ajala, O., English, P., & Pinkney, J. (2013, January 30). Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/97/3/505/4571510
Estruch, R. (2018, October 04). Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts: NEJM. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1800389
Ghosh, T., Rampelli, S., Jeffery, I., Santoro, A., Neto, M., Capri, M., . . . O’Toole, P. (2020, July 01). Mediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: The NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countries. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://gut.bmj.com/content/69/7/1218
Hardman, R., Kennedy, G., Macpherson, H., Scholey, A., & Pipingas, A. (2016, July 05). Adherence to a Mediterranean-Style Diet and Effects on Cognition in Adults: A Qualitative Evaluation and Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Prospective Trials. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2016.00022/full
Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids. (2020, October 1). Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/#rheumatoid