I talk often in the blog about how food is the pinnacle of any lifestyle, fitness or health program. Whether you’re trying to improve your appearance, get physically fit, improve biological functions, extend your life, combat chronic disease, or even just be a little healthier, it starts with what you eat. But with an abundance of information at our fingertips, and a new viral diet every other year, it’s hard to know what you really should be eating.
Some people advocate for veganism—but then you read somewhere else that you need to eat more complete proteins, which is difficult on an entirely plant based diet. And aren’t pasta and bread horrible for you? Then you have the friend who swears by keto, and he’s been eating cheese, beef, and eggs every day for the past year. And he swears he feels great! Hell, he looks great too.
So you decide to take matters into your own hands. You research the plant based diet first and find that every article you read advocates for it. Then you decide to look at keto, just to be safe and find the same thing—every article is telling you why you need to make the switch today.
So what should you do? Aren’t the two diets basically the opposite of each other? Which one is right? How can the world have such opposing views on what is the best direction for your health?
Honestly, even working in this industry I find myself going down the rabbit hole once in a while second guessing whether the new diet really is worth some consideration.
Truth be told, whatever diet you choose to advocate for, you will find resources to support it. However, based on all of the data we have available to us, there is one diet that is the heavily supported by clinical research, and we are going to go through it in detail in this article.
While there are many nuisances to this topic, when we look at the body of evidence and what that research tells us, there is one diet that consistently has been supported by clinical research, and that diet is (drumroll, please)…the mediterranean diet.
Note that the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are observed when it is treated as lifestyle, not a short term “diet” by conventional terms. Therefore, I highly encourage you to adopt the Mediterranean lifestyle as best you can.
Keep in mind, this diet is one of the most flexible and delicious plans out there, so in theory, it should not be too challenging to implement for the long run. This is the “diet” I personally, choose to live by.
Research has uncovered that Mediterranean populations (particularly those in Crete, Greece and Southern Italy) have a lower incidence of chronic diseases and longer life expectancy compared to other global populations. These findings led scientists to further explore these regions, one of the most famous being the Seven Countries studies which explored the relationship between lifestyle, disease risk, and healthy aging. But series of other investigations emerged that confirmed that these populations were doing something right, for instance the famously referenced Blue Zones found more evident correlations between the populations who live the longest and their lifestyle.
Blue Zones are regions of the world where people are reported to live longer and healthier lives compared to the global average. These regions were first identified by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, who studied the lifestyles and diets of people in these regions. There are currently five blue zones that have been identified:
In these regions, people typically live to be over 100 years old and experience lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Researchers have attributed the longevity and good health of people in these regions to various factors, including: diet, physical activity, social connection and stress management.
By studying the lifestyles and diets of people in blue zones, researchers have gained valuable insights into the factors that contribute to good health and longevity, and have used this information to develop health-promoting strategies for people around the world. And low and behold, these findings support adherence to a mediterranean diet.
More and more research has gone into validating the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet, and to-date it is the diet with the greatest body of evidence behind it. For example, further research has found the Mediterranean diet to “significantly improve health status” by offering the following benefits:
The Mediterranean diet is a dietary pattern based on the traditional eating habits of people living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, Spain, and Morocco. The diet emphasizes the consumption of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as healthy fats, such as olive oil and fatty fish. It also includes moderate amounts of dairy products, poultry, and eggs, and limited amounts of red meat and sweets.
The Mediterranean diet has been associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved cognitive function, and better weight management. This is likely due to the high consumption of nutrient-dense foods and the relatively low intake of processed and high-calorie foods.
Here are some key principles of the Mediterranean diet:
There is some ambiguity surrounding the Mediterranean diet and what exactly you can eat on it but here is what the most recent research has found the Mediterranean diet to include on a given day:
Additionally, the diet includes:
Because the Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle than a “diet,” it is not restrictive. You can still enjoy the foods you love in moderation. However, if you are transitioning from a western diet, you will likely need to cut back on dairy, poultry and eggs, and focus on incorporating more whole plant-based foods into your diet. You should also avoid highly processed foods and save sweets and red meat for rare and special occasions.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by an emphasis on plant-based foods, healthy fats, and moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, and fish. Here are some of the main foods that are commonly consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet:
The Mediterranean diet is based on whole, unprocessed foods, and emphasizes the consumption of nutrient-dense foods while limiting processed and high-calorie foods.
Implementing the Mediterranean diet can be a simple and enjoyable process. You don’t have to eliminate things from your diet, instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you should enrich your diet with (primarily, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.) Here are some steps you can take to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle:
By making small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can easily incorporate the principles of the Mediterranean diet and enjoy the many health benefits that come with it.
Disclaimer: I am a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer, not a registered dietician or physician. The information in this post are meant to be for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a licensed professional for specific medical advice.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
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