Is it the best diet for you?
It’s high in fat, you get to eat cheese and bread and two glasses of wine a day. Are you in heaven?
These are only some parts that make up the Mediterranean diet. It is more than just yummy food.
Despite the high fat intake, the Mediterranean diet has shown to lower rates of heart disease and some cancers and increase life expectancy1,2. It has also shown to protect genes associated with insulin sensitivity and atherosclerosis (artery plaque)2.
This is due to the balanced intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and some animal proteins (meat and dairy).
A study conducted by Castaner et al (2013) found a Mediterranean diet that included olive oil reduced BMI and blood pressure2. When nuts were added to the diet, there was a greater decrease in waist circumference2.
A traditional Mediterranean diet can be seen the table below. The Mediterranean diet is based on the typical diet of 16 countries that hug the Mediterranean coastline.
While the diet is high in fat (approximately 30-40% of total energy intake1), it is mainly monounsaturated fat from olive oil and omega-3s from fish. We talked about the benefits of monounsaturated fat in our previous article on olive oil, Liquid Gold.
Antioxidants are also very high in the Mediterranean diet. They are found in the fruits, vegetables, wine and again, olive oil1. A lack of antioxidants in the western style diets is thought to promote heart disease1.
Pharmaceutical companies have tried to capture these antioxidants in the form of supplements but were unable to observe the same positive effects when compared to consuming them from foods1.
Health professionals still recommend that vitamins and minerals be obtained from food and not supplements1. So if you were going to rush out and buy some omega-3 or vitamin E tablets, you’re out of luck. Nothing beats going straight to the source. You must eat!
Eating a Mediterranean-style diet has shown to reduce total mortality by 25% and death from heart disease by 33%1. The beneficial effects are seen higher in older persons (55+) with heart disease reducing by 83%, diabetes in women by 91% (wow!) and colon cancer in men by 71%1. Why is it higher in older persons than young? This may be due to the build-up effect of consuming the Mediterranean diet over time.
Unfortunately, the traditional Mediterranean diet, with all it’s health benefits, is slowly being replaced by increasingly popular easy-to-make western foods1. These western foods are high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates. Not to mention the convenience of store bought items, such as pasta, is adding to over consumption.
Let’s head back to our roots and make all the Nonnas around the world proud. If you’re a ‘westerner’ like me, go Greek/ Italian/ Lebanese for a week. Discover some amazing new restaurants or get cooking at home and save the traditional Mediterranean diet!
What is your favourite Mediterranean recipe?
Share your recipes in the comment box below.
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- Giugliano, D. & Esposito, K. (2005). Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1056(1), 253-260. doi:10.1196/annals.13.52.012
- Castaner, O., Corella, D, Covas, M., I., Sorh, J., V., Subiranna, I., Flores-Mateo, G.,…Fito, M. (2013). In vivo transcriptomic profile after a Mediterranean diet in high-cardiovascular risk patients: a randomised controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(3), 845-853. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.060582