The Mediterranean Diet has been rated the best diet in the world for the fourth year in a row by health and nutrition experts from U.S. News and World Report. So why is the diet so highly favored? Here are seven reasons why the Mediterranean Diet is the best. But first, what is the Mediterranean Diet?
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is a plant-focused diet centered around the traditional cuisine of people living around the Mediterranean Sea. The diet is fueled by olive oil as a healthy fat source and whole foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes. Generally, the Mediterranean Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, moderately high carbohydrate diet but the carbohydrates come from whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. The main protein in the Mediterranean Diet comes from beans, nuts and seeds whereas the main protein in the typical American diet comes from meat, chicken and pork. The greatest health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet can be seen over long term adherence to the diet.
7 Reasons the Mediterranean Diet is #1
It’s been around for thousands of years
The Mediterranean Diet is not a fad diet. It is based on the traditional diets of people living in the Mediterranean region, which is known as the “cradle of society”. Over thousands of years this geographical area was home to various civilizations such as the Ancient Egyptians, Cretans, and Ancient Greeks. Among all of them, a diet centered around vegetables was the norm and the consumption of healthy cereals such as bread, couscous, paella and pasta were essential parts of the cuisine.
It’s been shown to decrease the risk of almost every lifestyle-related disease such as heart disease, alzheimer’s and diabetes
In the 1950s, a scientist named Ancel Keys published a groundbreaking paper that showed a correlation between the Mediterranean Diet and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Since then, studies continue to show how this way of eating is likely effective at decreasing the risk of most other lifestyle-related diseases. Recently, studies have been published on the diet’s ability to reduce stress and reduce diabetes risk in women. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to also decrease risk of depression, obesity, asthma, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia and hypertension.
It’s been shown to improve gut health
In the past couple of years, there has been a lot of excitement around gut health and the benefits of a healthy microbiome. What I’ve found interesting is that many traditional diets have always incorporated foods that nurture a healthy gut and the Mediterranean Diet is no exception. A few examples include: greek yogurt, fruits and vegetables, olives, buttermilk and oats. The Mediterranean Diet is loaded with prebiotics, probiotics and includes a diverse range of fruits and vegetables all of which lead to a healthy gut microbiome.
Inflammation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Certain foods have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects while others promote inflammation. Highly processed foods associated with a typical American diet such as fast food, convenience foods and soda have been shown to cause inflammation. By eating a simple, plant-centered diet like the Mediterranean Diet you can start to move away from inflammatory foods and safeguard against inflammation with foods that fight it. Here is a recent study by Harvard Medical School that includes a helpful list of anti-inflammatory foods.
It’s one of the best diets for losing weight over the long term and maintaining it
Finding a diet that both helps you lose weight and maintain that weight is not an easy task. There are hundreds of weight loss diets out there and it’s hard to know where to start. Weight loss, in the context of the Mediterranean Diet, is not about a fast track to losing weight but rather bringing yourself into alignment with a healthy way of eating that over time will lead to weight loss that will last.
It provides you with many food choices and dishes from countries surrounding the Mediterranean such as Greece, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Italy.
By eating Mediterranean you have the opportunity to experience the delicacies and food customs of many different countries. One night, you could be having garlic shrimp (gambas al ajillo) from Spain and the next day for lunch you could be making Cretan black eyed peas with fresh dill, olive oil and orange slices. The possibilities are endless! I can guarantee that you there is so much variety that you will be able to satisfy any meat and potato eaters in your family!
It’s a sustainable way of eating. So delicious you’ll never stop eating this way.
The Mediterranean Diet is more than a diet, it’s a way of eating that celebrates food, togetherness, and well being. Give it a shot. You might just end up eating this way forever.
Want to begin eating Mediterranean?
If you’re curious about eating this way, check out this list of foods that are a part of the Mediterranean Diet.