As the name suggests, the Mediterranean diet is a contemporary nutritional plan that has been encouraged by the conventional dietary guide followed by people living in the region around the Mediterranean Sea – Southern Italy, Greece and Spain. The main features of this heart-healthy diet comprise consuming high amounts of legumes, olive oil, grains, unprocessed cereals, vegetables and fruits in the right proportions as well as eating fish in reasonable to high amounts and consuming reasonable proportions of dairy products, mainly cheese and yogurt, and some wine. In addition, Mediterranean diet includes consuming fewer amounts of meat as well as meat products.
Mediterranean diet includes very less amount of red meat while nearly all the fats consumed are unsaturated and derived from olive oil plus nuts. It has been found that consumption of some wine enhances the health benefits of Mediterranean diet. In fact, when followed with reasonable work-outs and without smoking, Mediterranean diet helps us to choose a lifestyle that is inexpensive, balanced, scientifically studied and is also helpful in promoting our overall health.
For over five decades, scientists have been examining the food patterns of people residing in the region of the Mediterranean Sea to learn about the secret regarding their superior health. In due course, the researchers discovered that several people residing in that particular region consume plenty of foodstuffs that enclose elevated level of fats as well as carbohydrates that are beneficial to our health. What is all the more interesting is that these people seldom have any problems related to their heart. They also rarely experience chronic ailments, which keep plaguing people in America. In fact, scientists examining the foods and lifestyle of residing in the Mediterranean region have come to the conclusion that their eating habits actually help to diminish their chances of having cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even obesity in a natural manner. In addition, they have confirmed that consumption of more fish, healthy fats, healthy carbohydrates, and drinking some wine offers plenty of health benefits.
In fact, scientists have also made a comparative study of the chances of developing heart diseases and other health disorders in people who adopted and did not adopt the Mediterranean diet. Precisely speaking, it has been found that people who regularly follow this diet have benefitted in a number of ways. Some of the health benefits offered by the Mediterranean diet are mentioned below.
- Longer life
- People following the Mediterranean diet closely are less at risk of dying at any age, primarily owing to the diminished chances of having or recurrence of heart ailments or even cancer and succumbing to these conditions. Findings of the scientific studies undertaken on the Mediterranean diet have corroborated that people in the United States as well as in the UK following this diet have shown about 20 per cent lessened chances of dying at any age.
- Low risks of chronic diseases
- People who have adopted the Mediterranean diet have lower risks of having chronic ailments like high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, or even elevated levels of cholesterol in their bloodstream, which are all related to cardiovascular diseases, in addition to other severe health problems. Moreover, when an individual has developed any one of these diseases, he/ she will require undergoing treatment and take medications for the rest of their life.
- Low risks of obesity
- People following the Mediterranean diet closely are at lesser risk of becoming overweight. In fact, the Mediterranean diet helps to reduce extra weight in a balanced manner.
- Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
- The Mediterranean diet also helps to diminish the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Stroke or ‘brain ictus’ is very dangerous, as it is the first reason for death among women and the second cause in men. In addition, although it is comparatively more frequent, heart attack or ‘myocardial infarction’, which is the major cause of death in men, is also important. In fact, it has already been established that the Mediterranean diet has a vital function in preventing a condition known as metabolic syndrome, which includes a number of health problems. The most remarkable among these disorders are high blood pressure, fat deposits in the region of the waist and elevated levels of insulin as well as irregular cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean diet has played a vital role in preventing asthma, lung ailments and several types of allergies. At the same time, it has been responsible for maintaining the bone mass, especially among the aged populations. In recent times, the Mediterranean diet has also been associated with the low occurrence of several cancer forms.
Characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet:
Traditionally, the Mediterranean diet comprises grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits. For instance, on average, people living in Greece have six or additional servings of vegetables and fruits containing high levels of antioxidants every day.
The grains consumed by people in the Mediterranean region are usually whole grains that enclose insignificant levels of detrimental trans fats, in addition to bread being a vital part of their daily diet. All over the Mediterranean region, people consume plain bread or dip them in olive oil before eating. Unlike in many other places, here people do not eat bread together with butter or, for that matter, margarine, which encloses significant amounts of trans or saturated fats.
Another vital element of the Mediterranean diet are nuts, which contain high levels of fat and nearly all the fat contained by them are healthy. Since nuts contain a high number of calories, you should never consume them in excess. Usually, you should never eat nuts in excess of just a handful in one day. To obtain the best health benefits from nuts, try to keep away from those that are honey-roasted or candied and also those that are salted heavily.
- Olive oil
- This antioxidant rich natural oil is extensively and exclusively used by people in the Mediterranean region for most of their culinary purposes. It may be noted that olive oil happens to be a very enriched resource of monounsaturated fat, which possesses the aptitude to bring down the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol or ‘bad’ cholesterol while improving the levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol or ‘good’ cholesterol. In addition, the Mediterranean diet is loaded with antioxidants, counting vitamin E. Findings of a study undertaken by scientists at the University of Michigan Health System that was carried in the December 2008 edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggest that one should ideally take no less than eight to ten servings of MUFA-rich foods every day.
- Vegetables and Fruits
- They provide us with significant amounts of dietary fiber as well as antioxidants, which are beneficial for our health. These constituents also protect us from heart diseases and even cancer. Findings of a recent study undertaken by researchers based in London and made public in January 2006 revealed that having five servings of fresh vegetables and fruits diminishes the chances of having a stroke by as much as 25 percent.
- All oily fish, for instance, salmon, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids – a polyunsaturated fat form that is also effective in reducing cholesterol levels. In a recommendation, the American Heart Association has urged people to incorporate no less than two servings of fish in their diet every week.
- On average, people residing in the region around the Mediterranean Sea drink one to two glasses of red wine every day together with their meals. In fact, red wine supplies us with sufficient amounts of flavonoid phenolics – a form of antioxidant that puts off heart diseases by means of improving the levels of HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and also by stopping the formation of blood clots.
The Mediterranean diet supports the consumption of more fresh vegetables and fruits. In addition, this diet also encourages people to consume lots of legumes and whole grains, which supply us with plenty of dietary fiber. Consuming plenty of dietary fiber actually aids regulating the blood sugar as well as blood cholesterol levels. Besides, any diet that contains lots of dietary fiber also helps to maintain the health of bowels.
The Mediterranean diet involves all foods that have their origin in plants, vegetables, fruits, low protein – every one of these contain fewer calories, but high levels of nutrition. In addition to these, the Mediterranean diet promotes consuming seeds and nuts in the form of snacks. In fact, this is a very nutritional, but weight reducing diet that is healthy for everyone. People following this lifestyle are advised to consume walnuts, almonds, and pistachios (particularly, those that are not roasted).
On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet does not support consumption of refined or processed foods, which are thought to be responsible for several health problems, in addition to the development of cancer. In addition, this diet supports the use of vegetables and fruits, which definitely supply us with greater amounts of antioxidants that possess the aptitude to combat free radicals responsible for cancer as well as premature aging. Besides, consumption of whole grains helps to prevent development and growth of cancerous cells.
The Mediterranean diet is especially beneficial for people with diabetes. This is primarily owing to the fact that this particular nutritional plan includes plenty of grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits while the diet contains very less saturated fat. The use of olive oil enhances the health benefits offered by the Mediterranean diet. In fact, all the features mentioned here are perfect for people suffering from diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet also helps to bind the family together, as preparing it at home provides an opportunity to engage the kids with healthy foods at a very tender age. This kind of participation increases the odd that children would also be comfortable to try new foods. In addition, it is likely that this will help the children to take more interest in their foods and, thereby, enhance nutrition. Therefore, it is needless to say that the Mediterranean diet offers various things at the same time – nutrition, enjoyment as well as a menu base that is family friendly.