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The Mediterranean diet: Everything you need to know.

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For people choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, there are numerous diets that you can choose based on your goals and preferences. The Mediterranean diet has been around for a long time, with its history lost in time because it is traced back to the Middle Ages. However, it is still used today by numerous people, and it is generally accepted by people in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. There are different types of the Mediterranean diet due to different eating habits of the people that initially adapted this diet that is low in sugar, saturated fat, and red meat.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

In order to understand the Mediterranean diet, you need to understand the Mediterranean diet pyramid. This pyramid is a nutrition guide that was created in 1993 by the World Health Organization, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Oldways Preservation rust. It makes it easier for you to understand the eating patterns of the Mediterranean diet, the types of foods allowed in the Mediterranean diet, and the frequency with which you should eat these foods. Although the pyramid is divided into daily, weekly, and monthly frequencies, it does not recommend serving portions. This makes it a little challenging to make a Mediterranean diet meal plan tailored to help you achieve your weight goals (weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance).

(Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, 2018)

What to eat on the Mediterranean diet

Unlike most diets, the Mediterranean diet is less restrictive. It encourages physical activity and eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, herbs, spices, olive oil, fish and seafood, yogurt, cheese, eggs, and poultry. The sugary foods and red meat are reserved for special occasions and are therefore limited. As shown in the pyramid above, daily physical activity, and moderate amounts of alcohol are part of the Mediterranean diet.

Due to the diverse food options, the Mediterranean diet is especially common for people who do not have allergies or medical conditions, preventing them from eating various foods. The pyramid makes it easier for you to know the foods you need to have in your fridge and pantry to meet your daily nutritional needs. These food options provide a healthy and balanced diet, which is essential for a healthy lifestyle. However, it is recommended to make sure that you eat the portions recommended by credible health practitioners and officials based on the goal you hope to achieve.

Foods to avoid

Although it might seem like the Mediterranean diet allows almost all types of food, there are some foods that you should avoid when you are on the Mediterranean diet. Red meat tops the list. You should eat it sparingly. With the Mediterranean diet, it is crucial to eat natural and healthy foods that are not highly processed. You should, therefore, avoid foods such as frozen meals which contain a lot of sodium, sodium candy, etc. if it contains a lot of trans fats or processed sugar, it’s best to avoid it. The Mediterranean diet also limits the intake of refined grains. You can replace the pasta and white bread with wholegrain products or whole grains such as brown rice, millet, couscous, etc.

Although the Mediterranean diet allows alcohol, you should stick to wines instead of hard liquor like tequila or vodka. The occasional glass of wine is okay.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is widely acclaimed for its health benefits. It topped the 2019 Best Diets Overall list due to its health benefits which have been scientifically proven (Welch, 2019).

Reduces the risk of heart disease

According to the November 2013 issue of the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet is good for the health of your heart. In a 2013 clinical study, the Mediterranean diet (which does not restrict calories) was proven to reduce the risk of heart disease by 30%. This is attributed to the fact that the Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, fish, extra-virgin olive oil, and nuts, which are incredibly beneficial for optimal heart function.

Helps with weight loss and weight maintenance

Although the Mediterranean diet does not restrict calorie intake, it can help you lose excess weight healthily and sustainably; and also maintain a healthy weight. The Mediterranean diet puts a lot of emphasis on eating whole, fresh, foods which offer a lot of essential nutrients without increasing empty calories to your diet. Although it is a good weight maintenance diet, it is not a fast weight loss diet. According to a recent diet, the Mediterranean diet promotes weight loss of up to 22 pounds (10Kgs) in one year (Mancini et al, 2016)

Helps manage type 2 diabetes

The Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil and nuts was proven to lower the risk for type 2 diabetes by 52%. Various studies have shown that it is an effective diet for blood sugar control, even more effective than low-carb diets, high-protein diets, and low-glycemic-index (Rodriguez, 2017).

Drawbacks

As the number one diet on the 2019 Best Diets Overall list, this diet has few disadvantages compared to most diets. These are:

  1. It may be more expensive to follow: The Mediterranean diet puts more emphasis on fresh and whole foods which tend to be more expensive than processed foods. This might be a bit straining for some people.
  2. It’s time-consuming: cooking fresh foods takes more time compared to eating fast food or preparing frozen meals.
  3. It is not intended to be a weight loss diet: although it promotes weight loss, it is not necessarily a weight loss diet. You should, therefore, watch your calories if you intend to lose weight using the Mediterranean diet.

Healthy Mediterranean diet snacks

Due to its less restrictive nature, there are many healthy snack options for Mediterranean dieters. These include nuts, carrots, berries, fruits, Greek yoghurt, roasted artichokes, baked phyllo chips, and other snacks free of processed sugars and saturated fats that are preferably all-natural.

Conclusion

The Mediterranean diet made a huge comeback in 2019, and it has continued to help people with a host of scientifically proven benefits. If you are looking for a sustainable and healthy diet, this one might be your best choice.

References

En.wikipedia.org. 2018. Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Diet_Pyramid> [Accessed 10 March 2020].

Mancini, J., Fillion, K., Atallah, R. and Eisenberg, M., 2016. Systematic Review Of The Mediterranean Diet For Long-Term Weight Loss. – Pubmed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26721635> [Accessed 10 March 2020].

Rodriguez, D., 2017. Is The Mediterranean Diet Best For Diabetes? – Type 2 Diabetes Center – Everydayhealth.Com. [online] EverydayHealth.com. Available at: <https://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/diet/is-mediterranean-diet-best-diabetes/> [Accessed 10 March 2020].

Welch, A., 2019. The Best Overall Diets For 2019. [online] Cbsnews.com. Available at: <https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-best-diets-for-2019/> [Accessed 10 March 2020].

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