Improve Your Health: Embrace the Mediterranean Diet!

Mediterranean Diet

By Heather Deering, Registered Associate Nutritionist

If you’re looking to improve your long-term health, a Mediterranean-style diet might just be the solution you are looking for…

What is the Mediterranean diet?

It’s a way of eating which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, beans and pulses, and heart-healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil . Whereas saturated fats, red and processed meats, sugars and processed foods are limited. Simple enough, right?

So, what are the Mediterranean diet benefits?

This Mediterranean way of eating has been associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (1). Menopausal women may wish to trial a Mediterranean-style diet too, as it’s been linked with reduced risk of menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes (2).

However, the Mediterranean diet is best known for its beneficial effects on heart health. A diet which includes extra virgin olive oil or nuts has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke (3). It is also known to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes by a fifth and significantly improves blood sugar levels, potentially due to beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols found in foods (4).

The main source of protein in the Mediterranean diet is fish, a lean source of protein that contains important nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids (5). Omega-3s are known to have heart-health benefits (6), and studies have found that people who fish at least twice a week have a 50% lower risk of sudden death compared with those who rarely eat fish (7).

The Mediterranean diet may also be beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. The diet pattern is associated with lower levels of overweight, with some evidence suggesting that it can help to prevent obesity (8).

Finally, a diet which is high in fibre can be good for our gut health. Eating 30g of fibre daily helps to avoid constipation and can even reduce your risk of bowel cancer (9). So, it’s a win-win situation all round.

How will it impact your lifestyle?

We’ve learnt about the health benefits but what other Mediterranean diet benefits are there? 

Well for one, it’s great for the environment. Including more plant-based foods in your diet and moving away from pre-packaged, processed food supports sustainable eating. Eating sustainably can lessen your negative impact on the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (10). You don’t have to cut out foods or food groups entirely – small steps can add up. Whether that’s choosing fish from sustainable sources, having a couple of meat-free days each week or including more pulses and wholegrains in your meals.

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet extend far beyond the food itself. It’s an important part of cultural heritage in countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy (11). If you’ve holidayed in these countries, you may have noticed that people slow down at mealtimes – they spend more time preparing and eating meals, and family and friends come together to socialise. Unsurprisingly, eating with others and having social interaction at mealtimes has been linked with better diet quality and improved mental wellbeing (12).

How can you switch to a Mediterranean diet?

Changing your diet doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming! If you’re looking for an easy way to embrace the Mediterranean diet, look no further than the Reset Your Health plan. This provides you with a detailed meal plan, recipes and information on suitable foods all at the click of a button.

References

  1. Lourida I, Soni M, Thompson-Coon J, Purandare N, Lang IA, Ukoumunne OC, et al. Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia: A systematic review. Epidemiology. 2013;

2.  Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med. 2013;

3.  Herber-Gast GCM, Mishra GD. Fruit, Mediterranean-style, and high-fat and -sugar diets are associated with the risk of night sweats and hot flushes in midlife: Results from a prospective cohort study1-3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;

4.  Esposito K, Maiorino MI, Bellastella G, Panagiotakos DB, Giugliano D. Mediterranean diet for type 2 diabetes: cardiometabolic benefits. Endocrine. 2017;

5. Willett W. The Mediterranean diet: science and practice. Public Health Nutrition. 2006;9(1a):105-110.

6. Omega-3 [Internet]. Bda.uk.com. 2020 [cited 21 May 2020]. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/omega-3.html

7. Albert C. Fish Consumption and Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death. JAMA. 1998;279(1):23.

8. D’Innocenzo S, Biagi C, Lanari M. Obesity and the Mediterranean Diet: A Review of Evidence of the Role and Sustainability of the Mediterranean Diet. Nutrients. 2019;11(6):1306.

9. SACN. Carbohydrates and Health. TSO Station Off. 2015;

10. Aleksandrowicz L, Green R, Joy EJM, Smith P, Haines A. The impacts of dietary change on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and health: A systematic review. PLoS ONE. 2016;

11. Phull S, Wills W, Dickinson A. Is It a Pleasure to Eat Together? Theoretical Reflections on Conviviality and the Mediterranean Diet. Sociol Compass. 2015;

12. Conklin AI, Forouhi NG, Surtees P, Khaw KT, Wareham NJ, Monsivais P. Social relationships and healthful dietary behaviour: Evidence from over-50s in the EPIC cohort, UK. Soc Sci Med. 2014;