In this post I will return to the Mediterranean Diet (from here on called MedDiet), as I mentioned I would in last week’s post. I will provide you with some more in-depth information about what the MedDiet actually is and what its benefits are. I’m honestly very excited about the research done on this particular way of eating (and living) and I’m convinced there is a good chance of feeling very healthy and happy this way, or losing weight gradually and maintaining weight loss, while being more sustainable at the same time. Scientific articles often refer to the Seven Countries Study done in the 1950s by Keys as a first indication of what a MedDiet is. He discovered that in countries (regions) such as Greece (Crete in particular) and Southern Italy they ate in a particular way that reduced their risk of heart diseases. From that moment on a range of research has been done and a pretty complete idea of the MedDiet has been developed. This concept might lead to increased longevity, so for me that’s enough to be interested.

One could say that the MedDiet is largely plant-based and stresses the consumption of local and seasonal food. It has a very high consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole wheat cereals and olive oil. It has a lower intake of animal products and the animal products included in the diet can be often (not always) swapped by legumes. There is a suggested amount of dairy products on a daily basis, but for people who are either lactose intolerant or vegan it is worth the effort to look into plant-based foods that have similar properties to dairy, or only consume lactose free dairy, e.g. fermented cheese. On a weekly basis there  is an amount of fish, white meat, legumes and eggs suggested as sources of protein. For processed meat or red meat and potatoes there is actually a maximum. A moderate intake of red meat or processed meat is highly discouraged. This should be low or no intake at all. Every type of food  that has some sort of sugar added to it (refined sugar) should only be an occasional treat and nothing more.

Then of course there is the (in)famous glass of (red) wine that is consumed during meals. Approximately 1 glass a day for a woman and 2 glasses a day for a man. Research has shown that drinking in MedDiet style decreases the mortality rate compared to drinking more (and beverages other than (red) wine) and even not drinking at all. Side note: it’s not necessarily encouraged to start drinking when you’re abstinent and there has only been little research done on this particular topic. Besides wine, water (sparkling or natural) and herbal infusions are advised.

(The MedDiet Pyramid: This includes the servings you should have of each recommended or not so recommended food on the MedDiet. In addition, a regular amount of movement to stay fit is advised as well.
Source: Bach-Faig A., et al. (2011) Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Health Nutrition. )

What makes it such a healthy diet? It’s relatively high in unsaturated fat (olive oil, nuts and seeds) and fibres and relatively low in carbs, saturated fats and very low in refined sugar. Research found that people eating according to this diet were less likely to have cardiovascular diseases and type 2 Diabetes. It is suggested that it also decreases chances of some forms of cancer (because of whole foods and a smaller amount of processed foods, especially processed meat, and a wider range of fruits and vegetables, which are high in anti-oxidants). And it has shown results when it comes to (chronic) inflammation of your body. The amount of olive oil consumed on a daily basis is very likely accountable for that, since olive oil shows anti-inflammatory components. Inflammation can cause gut problems, which then can cause a lack of production of certain hormones, which in the end is likely to cause mental health issues. Research on the link between diet and mental health is relatively new, but the MedDiet seems to be very promising here as well. It is capable of creating a very balanced gut microbiota, which they now begin to discover might be essential for mental health and it is certainly essential for the reduction of inflammation.

When it comes to obesity it’s been very effective as well. This way of eating is satiating and the diet produces quite stable sugar levels, so it’s unlikely to overeat or snack in between while being on the MedDiet. Research has shown that diets lower in carbs (“lower” doesn’t necessarily mean “no” or “very low”) are more likely to be successful long-term than a diet low in fat. That having said, losing weight will go slowly and it will take some patience, but in this way it’s a lot easier to maintain. However, you need to stick to this the rest of your life in order to maintain and one of this diet’s strengths is that it doesn’t feel like a punishment or a real diet at all and it actually feels like something you would like to stick to the rest of your life.

In conclusion, the MedDiet is a diet, which is mainly plant-based and focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole wheat cereals, wholefoods in general and a high intake of unsaturated fats. Research has shown that it reduces risks of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, inflammation, possible mental health diseases and obesity.
One of the best things about it, is that it doesn’t feel like purgatory (it’s extremely tasty and easygoing). So why not give it go and enjoy real food, proper cooking and a healthy, probably longer, life.

From Italy with love,

Merel

p.s. When it comes to nutrition and its research, there is no 100% certainty, and despite the MedDiet being one of the best researched ways of eating and showing very promising results, still more research is needed to hopefully confirm what has been discovered so far. (+ always consult a professional for your personal situation, not a blog post).

p.p.s. This post has not been sponsored.

Sources:
1. Trichopoulou A., Lagiou P. (1997) Healthy Traditional Mediterranean Diet: An Expression of Culture, History, and Lifestyle. Nutrition Reviews.
2.Bach-Faig A., Berry E.M., Lairon D., et al. (2011) Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Healt Nutrition.
3.Trichopoulou A., Martínez-González A.M., Tong YN. T., et al. (2014) Definitions and potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet: views from experts around the world. BMC Medicine.
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7.Sofi F., Cesari F., Abbate R., et al. (2008) Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. BMJ
8.Kastorini C., Milionis H., Esposito K., et al. (2011) The Effect of Mediterranean Diet on Metabolic Syndrome and its Components. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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