Why is obesity a major health problem in America and other developed countries? Bad diets and worse eating habits is the answer. In the Mediterranean countries, mortality is lower and people lead healthier lives. This is simply because the Mediterranean diet they are following uses foods and cooking methods that are simply much more wholesome.
This diet is mainly based on plant-based foods so that legumes (peas, lentils and beans), fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are the basis of the diet. Protein is supplied by fish and white meat. Red meat is eaten only a few times a month. Lots of emphasis on fresh food while processed food, ready made meals, and junk food are avoided like the plague.
Here are 9 reasons you should start adopting this diet now.
1. Heart health will improve
Fish oils, olive oil, and some seed oils are widely used in this diet. These unsaturated oils are beneficial for the heart. You can get up to 40% of calories from these fats because they are healthy. Normally, you should only get about 30% of your calories from fat.
2. Weight can be easily controlled
This diet limits animal or saturated fats because very little meat is consumed. Trans fats (in margarine and shortening) found in hydrogenated oil are also rarely present. Limited amount of dairy products such as milk, cheese, or yogurt are consumed. Keeping these fats down helps in weight loss. But you also need to combine this with exercise, smaller portions (except for vegetables) and a desire to stick to it for six months to get long lasting results. Keep to low fat dairy when you can.
3. Reduce your risk of diabetes
Because there is lots of fiber in the diet (from the grains, nuts and vegetables), this helps to slow down digestion and stop blood sugar levels from spiking. That certainly will help to reduce your risk of getting diabetes. Go for nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios instead of a sweet pastry.
4. Lower your risk of a stroke
You can have a stroke when a blood vessel bursts on its way to your brain. The best way of keeping these vessels healthy is to have plenty of antioxidants which you can get from fruit and vegetables which are plentiful in the Med Diet. One study showed that men with higher levels of lycopene (contained in tomatoes and other red fruit and veggies) were 55% less likely to have a stroke. As you know, tomatoes are everywhere in the Mediterranean diet. Add them to salads, pasta sauces and any snack you fancy.
5. Halve your risk of getting Parkinson’s disease
People who suffer form Parkinson’s disease (PD) find that their movement and coordination are severely affected. Researchers set out to find a possible link between diet and PD. One Japanese study found that those who had a diet based on plant foods, legumes, seaweed, fruit, and fish had a 50% lower risk of suffering from this disease than those whose diet had few or none of these elements. This diet is very similar to the Med Diet.
6. Less salt helps lower your blood pressure
You always find less salt in Mediterranean dishes. This is because herbs and spices are used to flavor food. That is much healthier than adding so much salt. In Tuscany in Italy, all the bread is unsalted. This was originally not for health reasons at all, but because salt was heavily taxed in the 12th century. The Tuscans saved money and were healthier too!
7. Cut your cholesterol
Olive oil is used in everything in the Med Diet. You can have a snack with olive oil poured on a piece of bread. That is much healthier than butter. Olive oil has lots of unsaturated fat and this helps to keep low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol down. Always go for virgin or extra virgin oil because this simply means that processing has been kept to a minimum. Add it almost everything you eat and you cannot go wrong.
8. Less risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Dr. Scarmeas of Columbia University has done some research on the connection between the Mediterranean Diet and Alzheimer’s disease. He and his researchers found that the diet played a role in helping to delay the onset of the disease. Always have fruit as a snack when you are hungry.
9. Reduce your cancer risks
Lots of studies have been done on the role of the Med Diet in helping to prevent cancer. One study showed that olive oil was instrumental in reducing breast cancer risk in women by 62%. Another study revealed that womb cancer in women was less prevalent in those who had followed this diet.
One simple Med Diet recipe
Here is a simple two step recipe for Mediterranean Potato Salad. This is a great way to substitute mayonnaise with much healthier red peppers, tomatoes, olives and some fresh herbs. All you have to do is to fry the vegetables in olive oil while you boil the potatoes. You can get the full list of ingredients and method here. Now, what could be simpler than that?
Featured photo credit: Oldways Mediterranean Lunch/Meal Makeover Moms via flickr.com