The Scientifically Proven Benefits of Eating the Mediterranean Diet
Year after year the infamous Mediterranean diet is crowned number one, but have you ever wondered exactly why it consistently comes out on top? Multiple scientific studies prove that the Mediterranean diet is superior when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease, depression, type 2 diabetes and many cancers, plus, the Mediterranean’s also live longer than most! Before you go diving into the olive oil head first, here’s everything you need to know.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
One of the biggest things to note with the Mediterranean diet is that there is no calorie counting, no cutting out food groups and no soupy green potions. Pretty much, the diet’s winning factor is that it’s not a diet but more of a lifestyle than anything else. Before you get excited, know that it’s not about eating endless baklava and halloumi, but more about eating a little bit of everything in moderation.
People abiding in the Mediterranean region follow a wholefood, predominantly plant-based diet, typically high in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil. They also eat moderate levels of dairy products, fish, poultry and eggs, but rarely include red meats. Processed foods and refined sugars are basically nonexistent. Many are happy to hear that meals usually includes a glass or two of red wine, as dining is usually social and leisurely - cheers!.
We can all agree that not only does Mediterranean food taste amazing but it also has a host of health benefits as outlined below.
The Mediterranean diet first piqued researchers' interest in the 1960s when they noticed that those living in Mediterranean regions such as Greece and Italy had far fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease than those in countries like the United States and Britain1. Further research confirmed their observations and led to more research on the additional health benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle. The diet is high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3s which is one of the main reasons that The Heart Foundation gives the diet the red tick of approval2. These healthy fats come predominantly from olive oil, nuts and seeds as well as the omega 3 rich fish (mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines and tuna) that feature regularly in the diet.
Decreased risk of depression
Researchers at Washington University analysed 41 studies looking at the link between nutrition and mental health, concluding that certain ingredients consistently increased the wellbeing of those who consumed them3. In particular, avocados, berries, tomatoes, leafy greens, walnuts, seeds and beans – all foods that are most commonly found in the Mediterranean diet, were found to improve wellbeing.
The analysis concluded that this eating lifestyle could reduce a person’s risk of developing depression by up to 33 per cent4.
Type 2 Diabetes
Following the Mediterranean lifestyle has also been proven to lower the risk of numerous diseases including Type 2 Diabetes. This is largely because the eating regimen doesn’t include any processed foods and is low in saturated fats and refined sugars.
The Mediterranean diet is so effective for cancer prevention that it is recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans5. Numerous studies have reported the decreased incidence of multiple types of cancer. The NIH-AARP Diet and Health study “found a 17% and 12% decreased cancer mortality in men and women following the Mediterranean diet after 5 years of follow-up.6”
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