Mediterranean diet is considered the healthiest diet and widely recommended by physicians and nutritionist. This diet encourages nutrient-dense food and promotes plant-based food like vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and healthy fats. The Mediterranean dietary pattern (MDP) also includes moderate consumption of fish and shellfish, white meat, eggs, and dairy products.
WHAT MAKES MEDITERRANEAN DIET(MD)
- vegetables and fruits
- Legumes; lentils, chickpeas and beans
- Nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios
- Herbs: rosemary, thyme and basil
- Spices: nutmeg, cinnamon and saffron
- Fish, poultry and minimal intake of red meat
Evidence for health benefits of Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean Diet is associated with a lower incidence of mortality from all-causes, and is also related to lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
The evidence so far accumulated suggests that adopting a Mediterranean diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes; moreover, a lower carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style diet seems good for HbA1c reduction in persons with established diabetes.
Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, which have been considered a good source of phenolic compounds. Berries, pomegranate, oliv oil, all contain variety of phenolic compounds. The potential benefits of olive oil for the prevention of type 2 diabetes have been confirmed in a meta-analysis of 29 prospective studies in which the highest olive oil dietary intake category showed a 16% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes. Thus, current evidence suggests that diets enriched with olive oil might prevent new-onset diabetes, an effect that, at least in part, could be attributed to the polyphenol content of oil.
Mediterranean diet is very low in saturated fatty acids (SFA), and mostly fat comes from plant sources like olive oil and avocado, both are rich source of monounstaurated fatty acids (MUFA ). Ratio of MUFA to SFA is the key components for the health benefits of the MD. This diet also recomend frequent intake of nuts, which is best source of omegea 3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that our body can not make. Fish are also important in mediterranean diet. Oily fish like sardine, mackerel, salmon and lake trout are rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
In a cohort study of 25,994 women in the United States, adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a one-fourth relative risk reduction in cardiovascular disease, which was explained by reductions in inflammation, insulin resistance, body mass index, blood pressure and lipid profile (low -density lipoprotein and triglycerides).
There is strong evidence that consuming a fiber rich diet is associated with reduced risk of heart diseases, type2 diabetes, stroke and bowel cancer. Mediterranean diet is traditionally a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables all are good sources of fiber.
Take home message
The Mediterreanen diet is very similar to the government healthy recommendation, which is set out in the eating welll guide. Studies showed that longterm adherence to mediterranean diet is associated with better health outcomes. However, I must point out that the Mediterranean diet is not able to produce, by itself, the benefits listed above if you do not change at the same time other risk factors such as a reduced or absent physical activity, caloric intake in excess of the energy needs of our body.
(21) (PDF) The Mediterranean Diet: A History of Health. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242018034_The_Mediterranean_Diet_A_History_of_Health