There are many ways to achieve a long and healthy way. Some are relatively easy, some are not. Dieting perhaps falls into the second group as doing away with your favorite food can be a real test of willpower. Luckily, not all healthy diets require hermit-like frugality. Welcome to the Mediterranean diet, one of the best of its type. It can guarantee great health benefits and enjoyment of food at the same time. Interesting fact: Prince Philip, late husband of England’s Queen Elizabeth II, was a big fan of the Mediterranean diet.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Despite its name, the Mediterranean diet isn’t really a diet in the sense that people must count their calorie intake or stay away from certain kinds of food. And it doesn’t mean eating bowl after bowl of pasta and bread is Mediterranean either. Rather, it’s more like an eating pattern or even a lifestyle. It is based on the traditional eating habits from mid-20th century of people in Greece, Italy, and Spain. Those are the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, hence the name.
The diet varies from one region to then next, but there are some shared principles. Generally, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, seafood, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and good fats (most notably olive oil). Red meat and other types of fat aren’t encouraged. Even more, it favors the consumption of fresh, seasonal, and local foods. So processed and off-season food are a no-go. Alcohol, preferably red wine, can be consumed in moderation. What is also different about Mediterranean diet is that it also focuses on non-food element, which is to eat slowly as a family as well as to do regular physical activity.
The Mediterranean diet for everyone: numerous health benefits
Delaying Parkinson’s disease
The Mediterranean diet consists of food rich in antioxidants, beneficial substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells. Antioxidants can be found in particularly large quantity in EVOO. Now that Parkinson’s disease occurs when nervous cells are damaged with old age, the abundance of antioxidants provided by the diet can reasonably delay the condition. There is still no cure for the disease in the foreseeable future so it’s best to take some preventative measures.
Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still a mystery to the medical community. However, it would be calculated guess that the high level of antioxidants can help battle the condition. Besides, the Mediterranean diet offers a great host of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients which has a beneficial effect on the nervous system. That is probably why people around the Mediterranean region are less likely to develop dementia.
Keeping your body in shape
The Mediterranean diet is great for weight management. It does contain a lot of fats but they are all healthy fats such as EVOO. The main culprits for obesity are processed and sugary foods with the diet totally does away with. In fact, studies have shown the Mediterranean diet is as effective as the low-carb counterpart in terms of weight loss.
Protecting against type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is all about the body’s failure to use effectively insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Some research speculates that the Mediterranean diet could improve the use of insulin, thus protecting against the disease. Also, weight loss, low intake of sugar and a lot of vegetables also help.
Lowering the odds of heart disease and strokes.
There are several factors contributing to cardiovascular disease and strokes. The preventable ones are obesity, diabetes, inactivity, high level of cholesterol and high blood pressure. As said above, the Mediterranean diet protects you from obesity and diabetes. Following the diet also means regular physical activity so you can cross the “inactivity” out. Bad cholesterol is often found in refined food and red meat, so you don’t have to worry about it because Mediterranean food doesn’t contain much of them. High blood pressure is linked with high intake of salt and bad eating habits, none of which will happen if you follow the diet correctly. To sum up, the chances of having heart disease and strokes are very, very low.
Reducing the risk of cancer
Remember antioxidants? They also help boost immune system and fight cancerous cells. Therefore, when you are on a Mediterranean diet, you have given yourself a fighting chance against the scourge named cancer.
Well, by protecting you from most of the health problems that prey on modern life, from diabetes to cancer and dementia, the Mediterranean diet will give your life expectancy a much brighter outlook.
Proof of the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet: The Mediterranean people
A look at the health of people around the Mediterranean region will tell you that the diet works wonders. They tend to have a longer life, a stronger heart, and a lower death rate. They are also much less prone to cancer and obesity. Out of five Blue Zones, which are the world’s regions higher than usual number of people live much longer than average, two are in Greece and Italy. The diet undoubted plays a big part in it. Hundreds of miles northwest, Prince Philip passed away at the age of 99. He was keen on the Mediterranean diet too. And he was part Mediterranean too: he was of Greek and Danish origin.
The Greek version of this diet consists of a high intake of fruits, vegetables (particularly wild plants), nuts, sourdough bread, fish and, you guess what, lots and lots of olive oil. The last ingredient is responsible for many health benefits that the Mediterranean diet offers so if you plan to follow it, make sure you have enough extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) around.