Health and Food — The Mediterranean Diet
Few diets are as widely recommended by experts as the Mediterranean diet, which is based on what people in Mediterranean countries eat. Originally developed in the 1960s, it features the cuisines of Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. Although the Mediterranean diet varies from country to country, it is usually rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil and low in meat and dairy products.
Although the Mediterranean diet is not strict, foods that should be avoided include processed meats such as bacon and sausage, heavily refined foods such as sugary beverages and desserts, processed cheese, food made with white flour such as bread or pasta, alcohol that is not red wine, butter, and distilled or hydrogenated oils.
By contrast, the diet is comprised primarily of vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, and carrots, but it can also include fruits such as apples, bananas, dates, oranges, melons, and strawberries, as well as nuts, seeds, and lightly processed butter made from legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Moreover, the Mediterranean diet permits nutmeg, rosemary, sage and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil for herbs and spices.
The diet also includes seafood such as shrimp, salmon, oysters, and crab and poultry such as turkey, duck, chicken, and eggs. However, they must be eaten in moderation and complemented with regular exercise.
The Mediterranean diet could be linked to good health, and it is also attributed to an assortment of health functions. For example, it has been vastly studied for its ability to promote a healthy heart, and research shows that it may even be connected to a lower chance of heart disease and stroke. Indeed, one study noted that the Mediterranean diet is more helpful in hindering arterial plaque buildup, a major cause of heart disease, than a low-fat diet. Another study shows that the Mediterranean diet can also help reduce diastolic and systolic blood pressure to promote heart health. The diet is heart-protective because it is not only anti-inflammatory, but also generally rich in hydroxytyrosol, an antioxidant that is known to repair radical heart damage.
The Mediterranean diet also encourages a variety of foods that are dense in nutrients, and in doing so, it tends to regulate blood sugar levels, safeguard against diabetes, and enhance levels of hemoglobin A1C, which is used to assess blood sugar control. The Mediterranean diet also helps lessen insulin resistance, and dieticians often recommend it to those with chronic disease.
Several studies have also shown that the Mediterranean diet could benefit brain health and even safeguard against mental decline in older people. For example, one study found that an outstanding commitment to the diet was linked with improved memory and a reduction in various risk conditions for Alzheimer’s disease. Another found that it may be connected to a lesser threat of dementia, cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease, and yet another study showed a correlation between following the diet and the development of processing speed and cognitive function in older adults.