The Mediterranean diet isn’t a “diet” in the traditional sense of the word. It’s a delicious, healthy way of eating. A lifestyle choice. Inspired by traditional diets of Greece, Spain, and Southern Italy, the Med diet (that’s what people in the biz call it — and it’s much easier to spell!) emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oils accompanied by seafood and red wine and lesser amounts of red meat, poultry, and dairy products.
Mediterranean Diet Benefits
The first objective data about the health benefits of eating a Mediterranean style diet was published in the 1940’s as part of the Seven Countries Study — the first of its kind to analyze the connections between lifestyle, diet, heart disease, and stroke across varying populations in different parts of the world. And studies continue to support the Med diet’s healthy goodness:
- A recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that women who eat Mediterranean style in their middle ages have improved health later in life. They’re about 40% more likely to live past 70 without 11 chronic diseases, including many cancers, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Another study funded by the Spanish government and published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that adding olive oil and nuts to your diet can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by about 30%.
- And another research project at the University of Alabama Birmingham suggests that adhering to a Meditteranean style diet may be linked to preserving memory and thinking abilities.
Getting To Know The Mediterranean Diet
Start with the Med diet pyramid — it’s festive and emphasizes the social aspects of eating. It encourages you to be active and enjoy your meals with friends and family. Eat mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and peanuts. Enjoy seafood twice a week, eat poultry once a week, and red meat in moderation. And stock up on olive oil to use as your principal fat. Emphasize minimally-processed foods, and eat seasonally fresh, locally grown foods — which can maximize its’ beneficial micronutrient and antioxidant content.
If you want to learn more, download the “Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet” brochure from the Oldways web site.
I’m not a big fruit eater, and my family doesn’t like many vegetables, so embracing this lifestyle may be a challenge for us. But we’re going to give it a try. How about you?
Image Credit: Seafood Starter In Greece via Shutterstock