What we now refer to as the “Mediterranean diet” is based on the typical diets of people living in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Those studied by doctors were found to be in peak health and to be at low risk for numerous chronic illnesses. There are no hard and fast rules for the diet, but in general, it promotes foods like veggies, fruits, carbohydrates, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Refined carbohydrates, sugary processed meals, and added sugars should all be limited. Researchers have found that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and death from any cause. This is why this diet is suggested for those who want to boost their health and reduce their risk of developing chronic conditions. Additionally, it has been linked to many potential advantages, including improved cognitive performance, cardiovascular health, healthy blood sugar levels, and more.
However, there are many basic rules you can follow to incorporate this diet into your daily life, despite the lack of specific regulations for how to follow the diet. You may have read that this diet is one of the healthiest options out there, but what does the research say about its claims to fame? Many studies over many years have demonstrated that eating a diet similar to that of the Mediterranean can improve health and lengthen life expectancy. Here’s the explanation if you’re curious as to why. The traditional foods of Italy, Greece, and other nations on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea form the basis of this diet. It’s a diet that relies mainly on plant foods, with seafood like fish serving as the primary source of animal protein. Additionally, it suggests cutting back on processed foods and drinking red wine in moderation.
What are the health advantages of the Mediterranean diet?
Because its adherents are spread out geographically, this diet and lifestyle are not universal. As a result, it is more difficult to determine whether or not the diet has any health benefits. Balance in food and beverages may be more challenging for those of us on the other side of the Atlantic, especially given that the Mediterranean diet provides no specific calorie intake suggestions. Numerous scientific studies attest to the health advantages of thist, which is why it has gained so much notoriety among doctors. Numerous health advantages have been associated with following a Mediterranean diet. Those disclaimers aside, let’s take a look at this diet’s claimed health advantages and the research that supports them.
Following are the health advantages of a Mediterranean diet
Benefits cardiovascular health
The positive effects of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular health have been the subject of much research. Studies suggest that following a Mediterranean diet may reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke. The buildup of plaque in the arteries is a key risk factor for heart disease, and one research compared the benefits of the Mediterranean diet versus a reduced fat diet, reporting the diet was more successful at reducing the advancement of plaque buildup. To further aid heart health, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce both diastolic and systolic blood pressure. Further research is required to see if the reduced cardiovascular disease incidence in Mediterranean countries compared to the U.S. is due to lifestyle factors. According to the findings, compared to the control group, those following the diet had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events like stroke, cardiac arrest, and fatality.
Maintains normal glucose levels in the blood
Fruits, veggies, nuts, peanuts, whole foods, and heart-healthy fats are all promoted on a Mediterranean diet. This dietary plan has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Intriguingly, some studies have shown that adhering to a Mediterranean diet can lower fasting blood sugar and increase hemoglobin A1C levels, both of which are markers for how well blood sugar is managed over time. The insulin resistance that hinders the body’s capacity to use insulin to manage blood sugar levels improves with a Mediterranean diet. In addition, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to enhance blood sugar control in persons with type 2 diabetes better than reduced carbs, low-glycemic index, and elevated meat diets. According to these results, following this diet may be a beneficial approach to lowering the risk of developing health problems associated with type 2 diabetes.
Prevents damage to cognitive ability
Numerous studies suggest that adhering to a Mediterranean diet may improve brain function and perhaps guard against age-related memory loss and confusion. One research of 512 adults indicated that those who followed this diet more closely had better memory and fewer risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. This diet has also been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In addition, one comprehensive research found that healthy older persons who followed the Mediterranean diet had better brain abilities, remembering, concentration, and information processing. There is promising evidence that greater commitment to this diet is connected with better cognition, slower cognitive decline, or lower Alzheimer’s disease progression, according to a review of the literature on this topic.
Enhancing the Quality of Sleep
The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rest were investigated in a 2018 study. The results of their study revealed that following a Mediterranean diet could help seniors get a better night’s rest. It appears that food has little effect on sleep performance in younger persons. The longevity and slower aging of centenarians may be at least in part due to their adherence to this diet. Following this diet has been demonstrated to increase longevity in the elderly in many studies. There’s also some evidence that a Mediterranean diet can assist aging bodies to keep their muscle and joint function intact. The effects of age, the consequences of many chronic illnesses, and a decline in physical ability all contribute to the syndrome known as frailty. It can have a major bearing on how well one ages.
Minimizing Body Fat
Weight loss efforts could benefit from following the Mediterranean diet as well. Weight reduction maintained at two times the rate seen in the control group was observed in the 2020 study’s Mediterranean diet group. As a bonus, the Mediterranean diet is also effective for weight loss. Due to their focus on whole, minimally processed foods, Mediterranean diets tend to be low in calories.
Those who followed this diet the most effectively lost the most weight, according to the study. Mounting data is suggesting that this diet plan is an excellent method of keeping weight stable. Another study found that dieters who followed the Mediterranean eating plan had a better chance of maintaining their weight loss for the long term. Read our advice on this diet if you’re interested in giving it a try.
Could act as a cancer preventative
Nearly one in ten Americans will be identified with cancer in their lifetime, per data from official authorities. Currently, cancer ranks as the second leading killer in the United States. Nutritional health has been and will continue to be a key cancer prevention strategy, despite the wide variety of cancers and variables that might cause them. In particular, this diet has been linked in numerous studies to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions. Those who follow the Mediterranean diet more closely have been linked to a reduced chance of dying from cancer, according to research. Cancers of the colon, throat, lungs, stomach, liver, and bladder are all greatly diminished. Cancers like prostate cancer, colon cancer, and neck and head cancers were found to be less likely to develop in people who followed the Mediterranean diet, and their mortality rates were also lowered.
Assists in rheumatoid arthritis treatment
People with rheumatoid arthritis may also benefit from following a Mediterranean diet. There is currently no treatment or cure for rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disorder that causes severe joint pain and stiffness. A high concentration of eicosanoids, molecules that induce inflammation, is one of the hallmarks of this condition. Eicosanoid production and related joint pain can be reduced by following an anti-inflammatory diet, which includes plant-based and Mediterranean dietary patterns. Researchers writing in the journal Rheumatology International found that the Mediterranean diet improved physical functioning in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Evidence indicates that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may be useful in alleviating RA symptoms when used in conjunction with medication, but additional study is needed to confirm this.
Certain Foods Found in the Mediterranean Diet May Help Reduce Depression
Analyzing the results of 41 observational studies, researchers found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a much-decreased risk of developing depression. The incidence of depression was lowered by 33% in a meta-analysis of four longitudinal studies that compared people on the diet to those on a “pro-inflammatory diet” (higher in packaged food, sugar, and trans fats). This study did not determine why a Mediterranean diet reduced depression risk. The authors of the study suggested that the findings could serve as a springboard for further research into dietary therapies for depression.
The Bottom Line
Although there is no single agreed-upon definition of the Mediterranean diet, it is often high in plant-based foods and low in animal-based ones, with a particular emphasis on fish and shellfish. Multiple health benefits show that it improves cardiovascular health, glucose control, and cognitive performance. Start constructing delectable, Mediterranean-inspired meals with things you enjoy, even if you don’t like fish and sardines. You can begin to adopt the Mediterranean diet by increasing the number of fruits and veggies you consume at each meal and snack. Include a salad or steamed vegetables with your main courses, and round off the meal with a piece of fresh fruit. Even if there is strong evidence that a Mediterranean diet is beneficial for health, it is still vital to maintain a healthy weight and limit unhealthy foods to achieve maximum results. Adults should take 1,600 to 3,200 calories daily, according to research.
We encourage folks to be at a good weight and not be gaining weight needlessly; this is true whether you’re concerned about diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. When adopting a Mediterranean diet, it’s important to do it in a way that facilitates calorie restriction, which is very possible. To maintain the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet over time, one must make permanent modifications to their eating habits. Diets high in natural foods, such as those abundant in veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats, are often recommended. People who aren’t getting enough satisfaction from their diet should consult with a nutritionist. To make you feel fuller for longer, they may suggest swapping out some of your usual foods for others or adding in some extra ones. The great thing about the Mediterranean diet is that you can modify it to fit your needs.