The Mediterranean Diet

As we are on a never-ending search for a healthier diet, it is not unusual for us to look to other countries for inspiration. One particular diet which is gaining momentum is the Mediterranean Diet. A dieter's dream and the antithesis of most diets; the Mediterranean diet is easy to follow, requires a high consumption of (monounsaturated) fat and red wine!

Studies have shown that close adherence to the Mediterranean Diet may reduce hypertension and result in less obesity (1).

The MediterraneanThose who lived in the Mediterranean were exceptionally healthy and had a much lower risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure.

If anyone needs proof that this diet can help improve your health and lose weight, then take a look at celebrities such as actor John Goodman, actress Penelope Cruz, and even chef Rachael Ray, have all lost weight and gained a healthy look by following this eating plan.

Mediterranean style diets are proven effective in young, working adults. Users saw improved cholesterol and reduced weight (2).

The Mediterranean Diet is a nutritional concept which states that consuming olive oil and wine will lower the risk of heart disease and will combat obesity. Researchers noted that those who lived in Greece and Italy were exceptionally healthy and had a much lower risk of developing many of the diseases which affect many people in America and around the world, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

There are many variations of Mediterranean diet due to social, political and economic differences between Mediterranean countries. However, the Mediterranean diet does share one common characteristic - the large consumption of olive oil, which dominates all Mediterranean meals.

How Does The Mediterranean Diet Work?

The Mediterranean Diet seems a contradiction in itself; it encourages individuals to eat more mono-saturated fats to become healthier. Does this concept have any merit to it?

The Mediterranean diet works on the notion that most of their meals consist of monounsaturated fats (ie. olive oil) which counteracts the animal fats. Unlike animal fats, monounsaturated fats do not raise blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are the ‘good’ fats, which are required for the body in order to function properly.

While there is no "right" way to do this diet, since many countries surrounding the Mediterranean don't eat the exact same things, but they did all seem to follow a certain structure.

Some of the things all people in this area shared was a love of red wine, which is consumed frequently in Mediterranean diets, has been shown in studies that it can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease. Red wine and purple grapes contain a special compound called resveratrol, which is a natural phenol that can help prevent heart disease.

Characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet The large consumption of olive oil, dominates all Mediterranean meals.

Although there are several variations of the Mediterranean diet, all share the same characteristics. The Mediterranean diet consists of:

  • High consumption of olive oil (emphasis on consuming monounsaturated fat)
  • High consumption of fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals (such as pasta, beans, nuts and seeds).
  • Moderate consumption of fish and poultry.
  • Moderate consumption of wine (One glass per day).
  • Moderate consumption of diary, including Greek yogurt and cheese
  • Moderate consumption of avocados, olives, and avocado oil
  • Moderate consumption of potatoes, turnips, yams, and sweet potatoes
  • Low consumption of eggs and red meat.

Current Research on the Mediterranean Diet

As a result of low incidents of heart disease and death rates in Mediterranean countries, more and more countries are looking to their Mediterranean neighbors to help them with their diet.

It is a curious phenomenon that Mediterranean countries, such as France and Italy, have a few reported cases of heart disease compared to their American counterparts. Both America and France consume high levels of animal fat, but France has comparatively lower cases of heath related disease. Admittedly, this could be due to other factors such as lifestyle.

Current studies are investigating how close the Mediterranean style diets are to the AHA (American Heart Association) dietary guidelines. It is evident that those who follow the Mediterranean diet consume less saturated fat than those who are on the average American diet. Consuming a Mediterranean style diet, as compared to a Western style diet, shows better gut health and lowered risk of breast cancer. (3,4)

However, there are some key similarities. For instance, the USDA food guide pyramid is made up from many of the foods that are emphasized in the Mediterranean diet.

Recent studies (New England Journal of Medicine) have found that consuming the Mediterranean diet lead to a 30 percent reduced risk of heart disease, as well as a much lower risk of stroke.

If you are interested in a more balanced diet that will not only help you to lose weight, but will also greatly reduce your risk of the #1 killer around the world, heart disease, the Mediterranean diet would be the right choice for you!

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