If you are looking for a healthy diet, the Mediterranean diet might just be right for you.The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating, adding a splash of flavorful olive oil in traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet are tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods in recipes that may make a difference in reducing your risk of heart disease. Those who follow a Mediterranean diet combined with exercise, not smoking and keeping to a healthy weight could live up to 15 years longer, researchers say.
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Studies has consistently shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. This diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is referred as the “bad” cholesterol because it is more likely to build up deposits in your arteries causing inflammation and hardening especially if combine with high sugar intake.
Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality in fact there was a 15 years increase life expectancy.
The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
In a review of 19 studies that included 162,000 people in different countries revealed that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of diabetes by 21 percent compared to other patterns. The control of diabetes is important in prevention of heart disease, hypertension, kidney failure and strokes.
“Adherence to the Mediterranean diet may prevent the development of diabetes irrespective of age, sex, race or culture,” lead investigator Demosthenes Panagiotakos, a professor at Harokopio University in Athens, Greece, said in a American College Cardiology news release. “This diet has a beneficial effect, even in high-risk groups, and speaks to the fact that is never too late to start on this diet.”
Key components of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Enjoying meals with family and friends
- Getting plenty of exercise
Nuts are high in fat (approximately 80 percent of their calories come from fat), but most of the fat is not saturated. Because nuts are high in calories, they should not be eaten in large amounts — generally no more than a handful a day. Avoid candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.
For Mediterranean recipes I recommend the book “Free Weekly Mediterranean Meal Plan”
Mangia per una vita sana e felice (Eat for long, happy, healthy life. Italian)
Laurence T. Gayao MD, Total Fitness Medicine