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What Are The Benefits Of Mediterranean Diet?

The modern day lifestyle has brought with itself stress, pollution of the cities and in addition to all these, an unhealthy diet has contributed to the detriment in the overall approach towards the living style of people. This, in turn, has caused them to suffer from various health conditions like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high risk of cancer etc. Being overweight can also lead to osteoarthritis, gall bladder problems and sleep apnoea too. To lose weight, there are different kind of diets which are being followed by people and one of such extremely popular one is Mediterranean Diet [1] .

The Mediterranean Diet

In recent times, various diet plans have come into popularity, considering the rise in the number of health enthusiasts as well as the number of various health conditions. Mediterranean diet, consider the healthiest diet plan out there is packed with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. The diet also has dish and poultry as lean sources of protein and is considered to be a lifestyle.

A number of studies have been conducted to explore the benefits of adopting the Mediterranean diet and it has been asserted as being beneficial for weight loss, blood sugar control and reduced risk of depression. Basically, the Mediterranean diet is the diet followed by the people of the Mediterranean and has been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a low-risk factor for heart attack and stroke and Alzheimer's disease[2] .

The Mediterranean diet focuses on the pattern and proportion of the food being consumed. It is an extremely nutritive diet incorporating a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, poultry and fish and limiting red meat and taking red wine in moderation. Saturated or trans fats [3] are also kept out of the diet plan and on the other hand, it is high in monosaturated fats and dietary fibres. Many researchers have proved that those who have followed the Mediterranean diet for a long number of years have had lower mortality rates.

This diet helps in losing weight, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of heart attack, depression, Alzheimer's disease and even stroke.

Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet

One of the major benefits of following the Mediterranean diet is that it requires you to sit down and savour the meal with your friends and family. This is, in contrast, the usual habit followed by most of us such as gobbling the food down while sitting slumped in front of a television [4] .

The Mediterranean diet, unlike the other types of diets, is not just focused on the types of food but the way in which you eat the food as well, as a significant component. The diet involves taking time to enjoy food in the company of others, drinking plenty of water, getting the right amount of exercise, focusing on in-season and plant-based foods, using extra-virgin olive oil as your main source of dietary fat, consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs and spices, eating fish and seafood (two times per week or more), daily or weekly consumption of cheese, yoghurt, eggs, and poultry (moderate/controlled quantities), reducing the consumption of red meats and sweets and eating fruit for dessert.

Various studies have been conducted on understanding the plethora of benefits offered by the Mediterranean diet. Although it is understood that the diet will help improve your health and lifestyle, the studies have proven the diet's positive impact on the human body [4] .

1. Improves cognitive function

The diet helps prevent cognitive decline and preserves memory. Some researchers have said that a Mediterranean diet is full of antioxidants and by including nuts and olive oil, it helps in restoring the cognitive functioning of the elderly and keeping them safe from diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's [5] .

2. Boosts heart health

Mediterranean diet is rich in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 foods that are good for the heart. Olive oil and fish that are contained in the Mediterranean diet help in maintaining the cholesterol level. It is low in saturated fats and thereby automatically reduces the chances of getting a heart attack or any other such cardiovascular problem [6] . It also protects against the genetic risk of heart stroke as the foods that are considered to be the main cause like refined bread, red meat, hard liquor and other kinds of commercially processed foods are abstained from this diet[7] .

3. Treats diabetes

Mediterranean diet is extremely beneficial for diabetes, as it controls blood sugar. The diet helps a diabetic fight type 2 diabetes through the incorporation of healthy foods that combat diabetes, and it also aids in eliminating the unhealthy food habits[8] you follow (which increases the risk of diabetes). The diet limits the intake of sugar, which is a direct relief to your body suffering from diabetes.

Following the diet can help improve the blood sugar level and also aids in weight loss. Mediterranean diet is very rich in dietary fibre which ultimately slows down the process of digestion [9] thus stopping the sugar levels in the body to fluctuate intensely and hence providing protection against type 2 diabetes[10] .

Benefits Of Mediterranean Diet For Diabetes

4. Manages blood pressure

It also helps in controlling the risk of high blood pressure and a higher level of cholesterol thus, keeping the entire cardiovascular system healthy. It has been proven that people who follow this great diet have stronger physical health [11] .

5. Protects from cancer

The diet protects your body from cancer. Mediterranean diet is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, rich in fibre and antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits. Several studies have found that the Mediterranean diet helps to fight cancer[12] [13] . It has also been suggested that the women who follow this diet have considerably less risk of suffering from endometrial and breast cancer. In fact, the risk of endometrial cancer is reduced to more than half of the rest.

6. Good for muscles

It strengthens your muscles, thereby reducing the chance of muscle weakness that comes with age. It has also been seen that people following this diet with regular exercise had comparatively stronger muscles [14] .

7. Slows down ageing

Mediterranean diet is filled up with numerous fresh vegetables and fruits, a lot of extra virgin olive and some red wine to go with the meal[15] . It does sound luxurious but the fact is that it is the healthiest diet of all and even slows down the ageing process due to its antioxidant property [16] .

8. Prevents stress

Low in processed foods, rich in fibre containing foods like fruits, vegetables and wholegrain, the Mediterranean diet is good for preventing stress and anxiety [17] .

9. Promotes weight loss

Rich with fibre containing foods, Mediterranean diet aids in weight loss in a healthy way. With the ample amount of fibre containing foods, the diet helps you lose weight as it limits your need to constantly snack, as the fibre will keep you feeling full [18] .

Some of the other benefits of the Mediterranean diet are as follows.

  • The diet encourages body and mind relaxation.
  • The diet is good for fighting off inflammation and reducing pain [19] .
  • It may improve fertility.
  • The diet does wonders to your skin.
  • It helps fight depression.
  • It helps strengthen your bones [20] .

Adopting The Mediterranean Diet

The first and foremost change to be adopted while switching to the Mediterranean diet is changing your oil. The diet demands the use of extra-virgin olive oil, which has rich quantities of monounsaturated fatty acids that can help improve the good cholesterol. Normal oils such as vegetable oil or coconut oil can cause negative impacts on your body, which can be dealt with the adoption of olive oil [21] .

Likewise, replacing desserts and sweets with fruits will do wonders to your body. Fruits are normally rich in fibre, vitamin C and other nutrients that can help improve your digestion and help in relieving any digestion-related issues.

One of the other major benefits of following the Mediterranean diet is that it requires you to sit down and savour the meal with your friends and family. This is, in contrast, the usual habit followed by most of us such as gobbling the food down while sitting slumped in front of television [22] . Also, the diet requires you to chew the food slowly and thoroughly, so that your whole body becomes responsive to the food consumed. This helps in curing hunger effectively and also not raising the need to snack constantly [23] .

Include These Foods To Start Your Mediterranean Diet

  • Vegetables such as carrots, onions, broccoli, spinach, kale, garlic, etc.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pastured or omega-3 enriched eggs [24]
  • Shrimp or shellfish
  • Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, etc.
  • Potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Greek yoghurt [25]
  • Berries like strawberries, blueberries etc.
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews etc.
  • Grains such as whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta etc.
  • Legumes such as lentils, pulses, beans etc.
  • Cheese
  • Seeds such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
  • Condiments like sea salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon etc.
  • Fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout[26]
  • Chicken

Disadvantages Of The Mediterranean Diet

Although it is packed with a deluge of benefits, it does have certain minor negative aspects.

  • It is risky for hyper-sensitive systems.
  • The diet is not cost effective for everyone.
  • The option of wine in the Mediterranean diet is not applicable to everyone as it can have adverse effects on people undergoing any medications.
View Article References
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