The Mediterranean Diet is a form of Southern European style of eating that is primarily practiced by the people who live in the majority of Greece, Crete, and southern Italy. Some regions of southern France, Spain, and Portugal also eat in this style, despite the fact that the last on that list does not border on the Mediterranean Sea.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet involves the consumption of a large amount of plant-based foods, as well as cereals, seeds, beans, and nuts. The primary source of fat is olive oil, with moderate amounts of fish and poultry. The dairy foods consumed are yogurt and cheese. Approximately four eggs per week as a maximum, very small amounts of red meat per week, low to moderate amounts of wine, and fresh fruit for dessert. Saturated fats should made up no more than 8 percent of daily calorie intake, with 25 to 35 percent of total calories made up of fats each day.
Overall, it can be said that the Mediterranean Diet is high dietary fiber and in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. Those who practice it typically consume a large amount of legumes. These include foods in the pea family that produce pods that naturally open along a seam, revealing a row of seeds. These include alfalfa, chickpeas, peas, lentils, and beans.
What Does the Research Say?
A study from researchers from the University of Toronto was published within the Archives of Internal Medicine (October 2012), and revealed that consuming a larger amount of legumes provides individuals with type 2 diabetes with improved glycemic control and helped to decrease the risk of the development of coronary heart disease.
Outside of the regions of Europe where the Mediterranean Diet is traditionally practiced, it gained popularity in other areas of the world in the 1990s, brought into the spotlight by Dr. Ancel Keys (USA) who had been stationed in the south of Italy. It wasn’t until the end of that decade that it was truly widely recognized and began taking off among people who are nutritionally conscious.
Building an Understanding of How it Works
When compared to other Western diets, when the Mediterranean Diet was seen as a conundrum. The reason is that until then, the common belief was that in order to lose weight, it was fat consumption that must primarily be reduced. However, with the Mediterranean Diet the fat consumption was considered quite high. At the same time, though, among those who practiced it over time, the instance of obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, were notably lower than among those eating the standard diets of the United States or the rest of Europe.
Praise for the Mediterranean Diet
Many highly reputed medical organizations, institutions and hospitals regularly praise the Mediterranean Diet for its nutritional and health benefits, particularly in terms of cardiovascular wellness. The Mayo Clinic refers to it as a “heart-healthy eating plan”.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has also placed this eating strategy among its topmost recommended plans. Beyond heart health, it also points to the improved weight control, brain health and overall wellness the Mediterranean Diet supports. The AHA has compared it to the DASH diet in terms of the types of overall health advantages it has to offer.