5 Health & Weight Loss Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
From having lots of fibre and nutrition, to all the great taste sensations you can create, we told you in our last post about how hummus might be the best snack food ever. With origins in the Middle East and North Africa, hummus is a mainstay of many Mediterranean diets that also includes foods from Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal (in other words, just about every country or region surrounding the Mediterranean, in case you were wondering where the name came from!).
With such widespread influences, it’s difficult to briefly describe what might be in a ‘Mediterranean diet’. But if you were to list some of the main characteristics of the diets in the region, they would include the following:
High consumption of olive oils, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables
Moderate to high consumption of fish and seafood
Moderate consumption of dairy products, mainly in cheeses and yogurt
Low consumption of non-fish meats
(Here’s the payoff!) moderate consumption of wine
If there is one ‘staple’ of a Mediterranean diet, it is olive oil, which is either part of the preparation or one of the ingredients in almost every meal. Including olive oil as a regular part of any diet has been linked to lower risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration and a number of other chronic diseases and conditions.
Olive oil and some of the other parts of a Mediterranean diet have earned it a reputation for a number of health benefits.
5 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
1. Heart Disease
High in Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, the diet has been linked in a number of studies to a reduction in the risk of heart disease. Mediterranean diets have also been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health.
2. Weight Loss
We should really say ‘healthy weight loss’. Unlike regular weight loss diets, a Mediterranean diet is not only lower is saturated fats, sugars and simple carbohydrates, it also delivers high levels of fibre (to keep the hunger pangs from making you overeat) and proteins.
Many of the foods commonly associated with the diet, like the garbanzo beans in hummus, whole grains and vegetables are packed with the broad range of nutrients your body needs to support sustained weight loss. You also get the versatility of choosing how to add high-quality proteins which can come from either seafood, high-quality dairy foods (that can also give you other benefits like a healthy dose of probiotics) or legumes.
3. Few Processed Foods & Simple Carbs
Another hallmark of the foods in Mediterranean diets is that they are in large part whole foods. The result is a diet that is very low in sugar, preservatives and artificial flavours.
Even when you’re looking for something sweet, it will come from fruits and more natural sweeteners, like honey.
4. Cancer Fighting
According to the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, “The biological mechanisms for cancer prevention associated with the Mediterranean diet have been related to the favorable effect of a balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids and high amounts of fiber, antioxidants and polyphenols found in fruit, vegetables, olive oil and wine.”
It’s those plant foods, whose antioxidants help to protect you from DNA damage, cell mutation, inflammation and tumor growth.
5. Might Help You Live Longer
When you do your research into the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, you’ll notice repeated references to its ability to lower “all-cause mortality/death” and/or increasing ‘longevity’. First, there is no hard scientific evidence that a Mediterranean diet will help you live longer. However, the sheer number of health benefits (too many to list in any one blog post) have lead a number of studies to include references like those above to indicate the near-inevitable life extending potential of the diet.
In addition to the ones we’ve mentioned so far, other benefits scientifically attributed to Mediterranean diets that can help you live longer include:
Lower risk of diabetes
Protection of cognitive health from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
Helps lower stress and depression
If you’re looking for healthy ways to lower and manage your weight, improving your diet is just one part of a healthy lifestyle that will get you there. You can also visit your local Herbal One Center where a nutritional consultant is ready to help you.