Everyone is always wondering which diet is the healthiest. Is it low fat? No gluten? No sugar? Scientists have pondered this question for decades. And the answer these days seems to be … the Mediterranean Diet.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
First, let’s make something clear. The Mediterranean diet isn’t a food plan you can buy at the local vitamin shop or order online. It’s a way of eating, inspired by the dietary patterns of Greece and southern Italy. Details about the diet will come later, but in summary, it emphasizes:
- Eating plenty of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes, and nuts.
- Choosing healthy fats like olive or canola oil over butter or other vegetable oils.
- Eating moderate amounts of fish and poultry rather than red meat.
- Eating moderate amounts of dairy (especially cultured products like yogurt, kefir, and cheese).
- Using plenty of fresh herbs over salt to flavor food.
- Enjoying meals with friends and family.
- Drinking red wine moderately with meals.
Why a Mediterranean diet?
Research abounds on why the Mediterranean diet is a good choice. A few of its many benefits include:
1. It can help protect your heart. In one large, multi-center study, researchers followed almost 7,500 people at high risk for heart disease for about five years, on average. Compared to a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil (about one tablespoon per day) or nuts (about one serving a day) significantly reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease by 30%.1
2. It can help prevent cancer. In one review of clinical trials and population studies, researchers found that a Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of overall cancer death, and also decreased risk of developing colon, breast, and other types of cancer.2
3. It makes the aging process more bearable. Researchers followed a group of over 6,000 Australian women for nine years. They found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet were 20% less likely to experience menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats, than those who ate a diet higher in sugar and fat.3
4. It can help make you happier, fast. In one crossover study, 24 healthy women were asked to follow their regular diet and a Mediterranean diet, each for ten days, in random order. Compared to their usual diet, the women not only reported significantly more contentment but also less confusion and better memory recall while on the Mediterranean diet.4
5. It’s easy to follow. No measuring, mixing, counting, depriving. The Mediterranean diet encourages you to eat, just eat more wholesome foods. Think whole foods that have been minimally processed to retain their nutrient content. This type of eating also doesn’t restrict good fat, and instead, advocates eating naturally occurring fats, like those in avocado, olive oil, and nuts. This is crucial because not only does it make you feel better, fat stays in your stomach for a long time. So you’ll feel fuller longer. And you won’t be craving high sugar or refined grains.
You can learn more about the specifics of the Mediterranean diet plan on our post The Best Diet for Your Health. You’ll also find more information in one of our favorite books on the subject: Good Food, Great Medicine.
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1. Estruch R, Ros E, Martínez-González MA. Mediterranean diet for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med. 2013;369(7):676-7. PMID: 23944307.
2. Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Does a Mediterranean-type diet reduce cancer risk? Curr Nutr Rep. 2016;5:9-17. Review. PMID: 27014505.
3. Herber-Gast GC, Mishra GD. Fruit, Mediterranean-style, and high-fat and -sugar diets are associated with the risk of night sweats and hot flushes in midlife: results from a prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(5):1092-9. PMID: 23553160.
4. Lee J, Pase M, Pipingas A, et al. Switching to a 10-day Mediterranean-style diet improves mood and cardiovascular function in a controlled crossover study. Nutrition. 2015;31(5):647-52. PMID: 25837207.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.