If you hear Mediterranean and immediately think of hummus, you are off to a traditional and delicious start! But there’s so much more to this way of eating. Let’s dig in!
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
With more than half a century of recognition behind it, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most well-researched dietary patterns. Despite being called a “diet,” this way of eating is not designed particularly for weight loss. Instead, it’s based on the traditional foods eaten in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
Contrary to popular belief, the Mediterranean diet is not synonymous with Greek food. Though some of the original research was done in Greece and Crete, this way of eating is common throughout the Mediterranean. Whether you’re in south Italy or Spain, Lebanon, or Tunisia, you will find many elements of the traditional Mediterranean way of eating, such as olive oil, chickpeas, grapes, and lemons.
Which foods are common in the Mediterranean diet?
Following the Mediterranean diet means including plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, including legumes, herbs and spices, nuts, olive oil, and fish, and seafood. Dairy, eggs, and poultry are eaten in moderation, while red meat and sweets are eaten even less.
You may have heard that wine is part of the Mediterranean diet. It’s true. Light to moderate alcohol intake (one drink a day for women and two for men) is common in the diet. But it’s important to note that if you don’t drink, you don’t need to start to reap health benefits.
Though food is the focus of any diet, one of the unique components of the Mediterranean style of eating is the inclusion of regular physical activity. Being active is key to the Mediterranean lifestyle and can include taking regular walks or playing your favorite sport. No gym required.
What are the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
Countless studies support the Mediterranean diet as a healthy and even the preferred way to eat to improve health and quality of life in many ways.
Heart health benefits. This is one of the most substantial areas of research. Numerous studies show that the Mediterranean diet may help reduce several risk factors associated with heart disease. It may help lower the risk of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and keep type 2 diabetes away.
One trial found that a traditional Mediterranean diet enhanced with additional extra virgin olive oil may delay the need for blood sugar-lowering medications. If you’ve been skimping on nuts, extra virgin olive oil, or other healthy fats, try this Walnut Tomato Sauce with Zucchini Lasagna or this Lentil Salad to add a healthy dose to dinner tonight.
Brain health benefits. Though more research is needed, preliminary research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may provide mental health benefits. Namely, it may help to ward off depression and might help us become more mentally resilient. Further, research gives a glimmer of hope that eating this way may help reduce cognitive decline and even delay the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Healthy aging benefits. Living long is a lot more fun if you’re in good health. Research shows the Mediterranean diet may add a few more years to your life and improve your quality of life! Among others, a study in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging found that following this diet improved health in both men and women over 60 years old.
And though it’s not designed for weight loss, the Mediterranean diet may help with weight management over time. One study found that following a traditional Mediterranean diet may help reduce weight gain.
The list of potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet goes on and on. With so much supporting evidence, the Mediterranean diet is not one to go on then off again. Instead, it can be enjoyed every day for a lifetime. It’s not a diet, but a lifestyle.
Ready to get started? Here are a few recipes to help get you started.
Hummus is a delicious staple that can be enjoyed in many ways. Make it for an appetizer or snack or spread it on a sandwich with veggies as the base for a light lunch or dinner.
Enjoy local fresh fruits and vegetables. This salad with Baby Greens with Blackberry Vinaigrette is an excellent choice for making the most of spring and summer produce!
Get creative with these Greek Veggie Balls with Lemon Tahini Sauce for a new dinner idea. The options are truly endless!
The Mediterranean Diet is more than just a diet. It is a healthy way of life. Try incorporating some of these Mediterranean foods, along with physical activity, into your life each day.
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