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Reasons to go for a Mediterranean diet

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To hope to live up to 100 years and still have good health is rare and requires discipline and a healthy diet. A Mediterranean diet can enable you to fulfill this ambition and enjoy the full measure of life. This diet is based on the food and recipes that people in several countries adjoining the Mediterranean Sea are known to take. Their food and active way of living has been widely researched for its various health benefits - especially those for the heart.

 

Features of a Mediterranean diet:

1. In its essence, this diet follows the simple rule of being 'close to nature'.

2. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, olive oil, herbs, whole grains, legumes, cheese, yogurt, and red grape wine are all hallmarks of a Mediterranean region daily diet.

3. Low in complex carbohydrates

4. Recommends moderate consumption of alcohol – especially red wine

5. Low in sugar and salt

6. Any meal combining vegetables, olive oil, fish, nuts, fruits, and legumes as a dish is healthy as well as tasty, and this is why it's highly popular across the world - more so, as all these ingredients are readily available.

One need not be living in the Mediterranean region to follow this diet. Supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and global retail chains across the world have ensured that the best of vegetables, nuts, grains, poultry, cheese and olive oil can be bought to sustain this diet as a habit.

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Ingredients of a Mediterranean diet:
  • Dishes have grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts
  • Butter and clarified butter replaced with olive oil
  • Seasoning of food and dishes with herbs and spices and not salt
  • Inclusion of occasional glasses of red wine in a week
  • Cutting down on red meat to no more than twice in a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least two times a week 

Medical associations and research institutes around the world often issue advisories and studies encouraging the adoption of this diet due to its role in reducing the chances of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, as well as age-related Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

With these kinds of life-enhancing benefits, it’s not surprising that research has concluded that some regions in Japan, Turkey, Greece, Sicily, and Italy that have substantial population of centenarians (people who are 100 years old and above) – follow a diet that’s Mediterranean in nature. 

 

Follow the Mediterranean diet to live a long and healthy life

Italian researchers studying the mountain villages of Sicily have often found that inhabitants lived till at least a 100 years as they habitually followed a diet that was high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and low in refined carbohydrates, red meat and sweets.

1. A major differentiating factor was the low glycemic index among the people of the villages. The glycemic index indicates how food affects a person's blood sugar levels.

For example, white bread has a high glycemic index and leads to glucose levels to rise quickly but foods with a low glycemic index such as vegetables and legumes cause a much lower rise in blood sugar levels. 

2. In general, diets with low glycemic index were shown to protect against heart disease among the Sicilians.

3. Moderate consumption of alcohol is a positive and enabling factor in a Mediterranean diet.

4. The centenarians who were studied were found to be having less body inflammation due to their diet as well as genetic factors.

A common dietary habit of this diet is to have four to six helpings of fruits, vegetables and nuts in a day as they are rich in anti-oxidants, which are critical in warding off age-related diseases. Another important aspect of this diet is that while ‘good’ fat is eaten in the form of olive oil, saturated or trans fat like in butter, is avoided. With sugar being increasingly singled out as the harbinger of many diseases, the low-sugar nature of this diet helps in avoiding piling on extra weight.

 

How to utilize the Mediterranean diet to lose weight

1. Divide the day in 5 meals to aid digestion and more efficient absorption of nutrients 

2. Include more pasta

3. Eat your meals accompanied with whole wheat bread

4. Have "all-in-one" meals that include all the major components of the diet such as legumes, cheese, olive oil, fish, herbs, vegetables and pasta

5. Say no to red meats and say yes to chicken, pork, turkey, and rabbit, all of which are less fatty

6. Include lots of fish in your diet such as sardines and anchovies - both of which are very high in nutrition

7. Cut down on salt and instead use herbs and spices to make the dishes full of flavour

8. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables ensures intake of fibre, minerals and vitamins.

As natural sugar and fat is eaten in moderation - balance is a key feature of this diet, as it does not involve complete sacrifice on behalf of someone who follows this food philosophy for the better part of life. This is in variance when compared to ‘fad’ diets that rely on regimenting food intake and strict diet charts, which makes it more attractive to break discipline.

If there’s a single contributory factor to the Mediterranean diet’s numerous health benefits – it’s the use of olive oil, which is high in nutrition.

 

Olive oil is the reason why you should follow the Mediterranean diet

The use of olive oil as opposed to other types of preferred fat is supposed to be one of the most important reasons why this diet is so healthy. 

1. Olive oil is very easily digestible

2. It is also capable in assisting in the digestion of other fats

3. Olive oil contains phenols, which repress genes that cause inflammation, and this helps in decreasing the risk of arthritis and heart disease

4. Phytonutrients in olive oil fight cancer

5. Olive oil is rich in anti-oxidants, which is highly beneficial to the body in preventing many diseases

6. Consumption of high levels of olive oil prevents many kinds of arthritis, diabetes, and blood pressure

Doctors also point out that the non-sedentary nature of the life of the Mediterranean people is crucial in attaining the full benefits of this diet. Less sitting and more regular physical activity contributes in extracting all that is healthy in a Mediterranean diet.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: September 16, 2013