Searching for a healthy and balanced diet or at least the most effective one can often feel like a full-time job. Mediterranean diet, being the world’s healthiest diet, can prove to be the answer for all your fitness goals. It delivers a number of health benefits, which include improved heart health, weight loss, regulated digestion, cancer prevention, improved cognition, eye care, and delayed aging.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Mediterranean diet is a healthy way of eating inspired by the cuisines of European countries including Greece, Italy, and Spain.
Every diet is different and affects every person in a slightly different way, but in recent decades, there has been some consensus that the healthiest diet you can choose is the Mediterranean diet.
When some people think of eating a meal in Italy, they immediately picture heaping servings of pizza and pasta, but that isn’t the case for this diet. What the Mediterranean diet refers to is the traditional eating habits of the region, which are quite different than the carb-heavy cuisine we associate with the region today.
50 years ago, studies found that people in the Mediterranean region had some of the lowest levels of chronic disease in the world, as well as one of the longest life expectancy rates, despite lacking access to overly advanced medical services.
Mediterranean Diet Plan
Mediterranean diet consists of eating fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, healthy oils, whole grains, herbs, spices and wine, among others. Rather than limiting food types, which other diets require, the Mediterranean diet focuses on replacing certain foods with healthier but similar options. The other primary reason why this diet is so popular is that the food is flavorful and there are plenty of options, making it easy to maintain and enjoy!
Fruits and Vegetables
One of the key staples of the Mediterranean diet is a high concentration of fruits and vegetables, which are usually consumed in some form at every meal. Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber, some of the best foods in this category include spinach, red peppers, onions, carrots, kale, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, figs, pears, apples, bananas, grapes, and strawberries.
Red meat is very rare in the Mediterranean diet but can be added 1-2 times per month on special occasions. Chicken is slightly more common and can be consumed 1-2 times per week, but the major source of animal protein comes from fish, which is also rich in trace minerals and beneficial fatty acids. Be sure to increase your intake of salmon, shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, sardines and mackerel on this diet.
Nuts and Seeds
These often overlooked aspects of a diet provide concentrated sources of beneficial fatty acids, as well as minerals, dietary fiber and other active ingredients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Although some nuts and seeds are high in calories, they can be eaten in moderation, particular things like almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and Macadamia nuts.
In terms of cereals to be consumed in a Mediterranean diet, whole grains are always the best option, as they have not been processed or hulled, so all of the nutrients remain intact. They are particularly rich in key nutrients that can be difficult to access in the rest of your diet, particularly in things like whole-grain pasta and bread, corn, brown rice, buckwheat, barley and whole wheat.
Perhaps the most recognizable part of a Mediterranean diet is the consistent use of olive oil. Used as a cooking oil, a salad dressing, a condiment for bread, or in any other form, olive oil is a much healthier option than things like butter, margarine, or other vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids or monounsaturated fats. The best healthy oil options, aside from olive oil, are avocado oil and canola oil.
When it comes to beverages, people are often confused by the heavy presence of wine in the Mediterranean diet. However, wine does offer certain antioxidants and cardiovascular benefits when consumed in moderation. Having 1 or 2 glasses of wine for women and men, respectively, is another appealing aspect of this healthiest diet.
Found at almost every meal in some form, bean varieties like chickpeas, lentils, peas, and lentils are frequent elements of the Mediterranean diet. Legumes are densely packed with nutrients and fiber, making them quite filling, in addition to being a good source of protein.
Herbs and Spices
One of the most dangerous aspects of your diet is your salt intake, as this can elevate blood pressure and compromise your heart health. It is also one of the most popular spices for food across the world. Using other herbs and spices, which are common in the Mediterranean diet, can deliver extra antioxidants and minerals, without putting your health at risk. These spices include garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, and basil.
Benefits of Mediterranean Diet
There are many health benefits to following the Mediterranean diet such as protection against diabetes, boosted heart health, lower inflammation, optimized digestion, delayed aging and weight loss, among others.
Many people think of the Mediterranean diet primarily as a weight loss tool, and it can certainly help in that area. With high levels of fiber and “good” forms of fat, the world’s healthiest diet can promote muscle growth, reduce fat deposition and speed up the metabolism to boost your calorie-burning potential.
Thanks to the nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, this diet is excellent for supporting heart health. Mediterranean-style food is linked to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, faster healing rates and lower levels of stress hormones, all of which can reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease.
Many of the typical foods in the Mediterranean diet are rich in fiber, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes. With ample amounts of fiber in your diet, your digestive process will be improved, preventing symptoms of constipation, bloating, cramping and stomach upset. It can also help to improve the efficiency of your nutrient uptake, meaning that you will get the most of the food you eat.
Another major bonus of the Mediterranean diet is its effect on diabetes, both for those at risk for the disease and people who have already been diagnosed. High fiber levels can help regulate the release of insulin and glucose into the body, while also reducing inflammation and lowering risk factors for metabolic syndrome, which is closely associated with diabetes.
Inflammation comes in many forms in countless areas of the body, causing oxidative stress and exhausting the body’s resources. With anti-inflammatory compounds, minerals and antioxidants abundant in this diet, inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and general aches and pains can be remedied quite easily.
Numerous studies have linked the common food in the world’s healthiest diet to a reduction in chronic disease, owing to the antioxidants present in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy oils. These antioxidants seek out and neutralize free radicals before they can cause oxidative stress and cellular mutation.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in various nuts, oils, seeds, fish and even some fruits, is known to reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation in the neural pathways, which can reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The Mediterranean diet can even improve mood, lessen anxiety, and soothe nervous system disorders.
Mediterranean diet helps delay the aging process as it is the healthiest diet. It aids in reducing chronic inflammation, which is often a major reason behind premature aging. Aside from that, the diet comprises of foods rich in diverse nutrients that collectively fight age-related disorders and help you embrace a healthy and happy life!
Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants that help protect your vision from diabetic retinopathy (DR) and other eye disorders. DR is triggered by diabetes and is a major cause of blindness and vision loss across the globe.
It also helps in improving bone health, treating the symptoms of menopause, and promoting muscle growth, among others.