Mediterranean Diet Evidence – How to Change Your Diet to One of the World’s Healthiest Diets

Since the early 1920s, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to healthy lifestyles and exceptional longevity. Thanks to its favorable nutrient profile and modest food components, the dietary pattern has gained popularity as a low-risk alternative for Western diets. Research also suggests that the diet may play a role in cancer prevention and treatment.

How is the Mediterranean Diet Different from Other Diets?

While all diets aim to provide health benefits and lower the risk of chronic diseases, not all dietary patterns can be categorized as ‘Mediterranean’. The primary difference between the Mediterranean and other dietary patterns is the emphasis on whole-foods, plant-based eating. The predominant food groups in the Mediterranean diet are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Dairy and meat products are present in smaller portions, and oil is restricted.

This type of food intake pattern puts the Mediterranean diet at a distinct advantage in terms of nutrient density. The diet is high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Adopting a Mediterranean diet style may help improve several health outcomes, including:

  • vascular health
  • cardio-vascular health
  • digestive health
  • general well-being
  • strength and endurance
  • weight management

When compared to other dietary patterns, the Mediterranean diet has a lower calorie and fat intake, and a higher intake of fiber. This makes it a healthier option for individuals seeking to lose weight or manage their cholesterol levels. Another distinguishing characteristic of the diet is the variety of food groups it contains.

Mediterranean Diets Have An Excellent Food Composition

A diet with an excellent food composition is a diet that provides necessary nutrients in adequate amounts. The Mediterranean diet meets this criterion since it is high in nutrients such as antioxidants (vitamins A and C), fiber, and folate. The food groups in the diet contribute to this favorable nutrient profile, as highlighted below.

Vegetables

The vegetables in the Mediterranean diet provide several health advantages. For example, tomatoes and peppers are rich in antioxidants, which act as small fighters in the body, battling and neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Scientists speculate that antioxidants may protect the brain cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are also unstable molecules that can damage the DNA in cells, prompting the body to produce more mutations and potentially leading to cancer. Other vegetables in the diet, such as lettuce and cucumber, provide essential vitamins and minerals that the body requires for good health. For instance, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps the body remove toxic substances such as hydrogen peroxide from the blood. Hydrogen peroxide is a byproduct of cellular metabolism, and excessive amounts of it in the blood suggests that the body is under a lot of stress (implying that food might be scarce, or at least, not easily accessible). Vitamin C also helps maintain a healthy immune system.

Legumes are a significant part of the Mediterranean diet, providing the body with essential nutrients such as protein and fiber. When eaten in moderation, legumes offer several health benefits, since they help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. These compounds also act as small antioxidants in the body, battling free radicals and preventing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Fruits

Fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that the body requires for good health. They also provide a significant amount of fiber that helps the body stay regular and prevents constipation. Fruits are a major part of the Mediterranean diet and are present in almost every meal. The dietary pattern recommends eating approximately two to three servings of fruit per day.

Whole Grains

The whole grains in the Mediterranean diet contribute to its healthy nutrient profile and low-cholesterol status. The grains are a source of fiber and are thus recommended to be eaten in plenty. They also contain several vitamins and minerals that the body requires for good health. Whole grains help improve the body’s ability to metabolize fats and lower cholesterol, which makes them an excellent option for individuals seeking to control their cholesterol levels and improve their cardiovascular health.

Nuts are also an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. They help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as provide a source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Besides helping maintain a healthy weight, nuts also provide an excellent source of antioxidants and flavonoids, which fight and prevent cancer. Antioxidants and flavonoids help protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals, which may help prevent many chronic diseases.

The above information highlights the significance of the different food groups in the Mediterranean diet. Together, these compounds help keep the body healthy and strong. Furthermore, the diet has an excellent food composition, providing necessary nutrients in adequate amounts. This makes it a viable option for individuals seeking to adhere to a healthier lifestyle.