The Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
The last few years have been overrun with fad diets such as the Keto Diet and Intermittent Fasting. However, concerns exist among medical professionals of using both of these fad diets long term.
One tried and true diet though, has proven effective at warding off stroke, heart attack and premature death. This diet is the Mediterranean Diet. Of course, the biggest payoff comes from adopting such a diet early in life. However, even making healthy dietary changes later in life will still provide positive health benefits.
May is National Mediterranean Diet Month. It is also American Stroke Month. To recognize the health benefits this diet can provide, including stroke prevention, we would like to discuss some of the important, research based facts about the diet. Then, we will also provide examples of how you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet incorporates foods typically consumed in the countries in the region bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This includes vegetables, fish, fruits and whole grains, and limited unhealthy fats. A bit of olive oil, limited alcohol and nuts are also typical in the diet of this region.
What does research say about the Mediterranean Diet?
Researchers reviewed the dietary habits of more than 10,000 women in their 50s and 60s. Then, they analyzed their health 15 years later.
Women who followed a healthy diet in middle age were nearly 40% more likely to live beyond age 70 without chronic illness, physical or mental problems than those following less-healthy diets. 1 The healthiest women ate more fish, plant based foods and whole grains; consumed less red and processed meats; and drank limited alcohol.
Do dietary changes midlife really make that much difference?
The foods eaten in the Mediterranean Diet are known to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress. These are the two general pathways underlying many age-related health conditions and diseases. Other improvements include better glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Whole grains, fruits, legumes and vegetables are also packed with fiber. Fiber slows digestion and also aids in controlling blood sugar. Monounsaturated fats found in fish, nuts and olive oils can have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help stave off heart disease and many other conditions.
Research has also shown that this type of eating pattern can help lower cholesterol, improve rheumatoid arthritis, aid in weight loss, and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and various types of cancer. 2
What are the basics of a Mediterranean-type diet?
Eat fish at least twice a week.
Base meals on fruits, vegetables, whole grains ( brown rice, quinoa whole wheat bread,), olive oil, nuts, beans, legumes (lentils,beans and dried peas), seeds, herbs and spices.
Consume moderate portions of poultry and eggs every two days or weekly.
Eat moderate portions of cheese and yogurt.
Eat red meat sparingly or limit to three-ounce portions.
Drink ample water each day, and drink alcohol in moderation.
What are some easy ways I can change my current diet?
Limit high-fat dairy by switching to 1% or skim milk.
Add fruits and vegetables to recipes and have them as a snack.
Sauté food in olive oil instead of butter.
Choose whole grains over refined breads and pastas.
Don’t let new dietary goals overwhelm you. Transition gradually so your new eating style becomes an actual lifestyle change.
Have questions about achieving your health goals? Make an appointment today with a CCMH provider. Search for one in our directory found here: ccmhhealth.com/directory.
1 Annals of Internal Medicine. Cécilia Samieri, PhD; Qi Sun, MD, ScD; Mary K. Townsend, ScD; Stephanie E. Chiuve, ScD; Olivia I. Okereke, MD; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH; Francine Grodstein, ScD. The Association Between Dietary Patterns at Midlife and Health in Aging: An Observational Study. 5 Nov. 2013.
2 Harvard Health Publishing. Heidi Godman. Adopt a Mediterranean diet now for better health later. 6 Nov. 203.
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