What is the Mediterranean Diet all about? As the name suggests, it is the diet eaten by those who live in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
Researchers noted that those eating this diet were exceptionally healthy. They noted that this pattern of eating helped fight against heart disease, strokes, certain cancers, diabetes, and cognitive decline. Compared to many North Americans, those eating a Mediterranean Diet had a lower risk of many lifestyle diseases.
In this blog, I plan to discuss a bit about the history of the Mediterranean Diet, what type of foods are included in this eating plan, and what the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are.
What is the Mediterranean Diet all About?
The Mediterranean Diet was inspired by the traditional eating habits of those living in Italy and Greece. It encompasses the eating habits of those people who live along the Mediterranean Sea.
In ancient Rome, the rich feasted on the delicacies of fish and seafood, while the slaves of Rome were destined to eat bread, olives and olive oil. The Greek enjoyed bread, wine and oil products supplemented by sheep cheese and vegetables.
Many Countries had Similar Eating Habits
There are at least 16 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Each country and region had varying eating preferences.
Because of the variety of people and cultures in this area of the world, there are various methods of following this diet. This eating plan can be adjusted to individual needs and preferences.
Even though there are different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, religions, economies, geographies and types of agriculture from this part of the world, there are, however, some things they all have in common.
The Similarity of Foods in the Mediterranean Type Diet
The area around the southeast of the Mediterranean Sea has been called the cradle of civilization. Within these geographical borders the history of the ancient world took place. It is where farming first emerged as people grew newly domesticated plants as crops.
The people bordering the Mediterranean Sea ate:
- An abundance of fruit and vegetables
- Bread and other whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive Oil was the primary source of fat
They ate low to moderate amounts of:
- dairy products
An American nutritionist in the 1970s, described the Mediterranean diet as… Homemade minestrone soup, pasta of all varieties, tomato sauce with a sprinkling of Parmesan. The occasional piece of meat or small fish in the place of beans and macaroni. Plenty of fresh bread eaten hot from the oven. Plenty of fresh vegetables sprinkled with olive oil, with perhaps a small portion of meat or fish several times a week. With always fruit for dessert.
Its North American History
In the 1950s an American scientist, Dr. Ancel Keys began researching the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. He noticed the relationship between the diet of people with that of their cardiovascular health.
In the 1950s he was impressed with the fact that the poor of small towns in southern Italy were healthier than their wealthier cousins who had immigrated decades earlier to New York.
When he first presented his idea to the World Health Organization in 1955, he was met with skepticism.
The Seven Countries Study
He was challenged to do more research on the subject. So, he implemented a research project called Seven Countries Study. Here he studied the eating habits and health of 7 countries around the globe. In total 12,763 subjects were screened during the next 5 and 10 years respectively.
The results showed significant differences between the geographical areas. Ancel realized that the dietary habits in Greece and southern Italy, had less cardiovascular disease.
When he realized this, Ancel Keys took his own advice and adopted the Mediterranean dietary pattern of eating. He lived to be 100 years old and died in 2004. Meanwhile, his research gained worldwide respect and recognition.
In 1975, he and his chemist wife, Margaret Keys first publicized their findings. It did not, however, get widespread recognition until the 1990s.
What are the Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is shown to prevent type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, lower cardiovascular incidents and strokes, lower the risks of certain cancers and lowers the risk of dementia.
The populations with the Mediterranean Diet had a lower rate of cholesterol in their blood and a smaller percentage of heart disease.
A healthy diet sharpens your memory, and the way you process information. In one study, healthy eaters at age 50 had nearly 90% lower risk of dementia, compared to those who had the least healthy diets.
The Mediterranean Diet has been proven to boost brain health as well as improve heart health.
While diet is important, it is also necessary to increase activity, and stop cigarette smoking. In other words, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle as well.
Does the American Heart Association Recommend the Mediterranean Diet?
The American Heart Association recommends a healthy diet.
- Eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, and legumes
- Include low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Use non-tropical vegetable oils
- Eat nuts
- Limit added sugars, sodium, or highly processed foods
- Eliminate or limit refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and processed meats
This helps reduce or prevent heart disease and stroke by reducing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance that your body needs to function well. However, too much of it can have a negative effect on the body.
HDL is the “Healthy” kind of cholesterol in your body. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and are a healthy type of fat.
LDL is the “Lousy” kind of cholesterol in your body which can clog arteries.
The Mediterranean diet, particularly when enriched with virgin olive oil, improves the so-called good – “Healthy” – cholesterol, in people at high risk for heart disease. It also helps reduce excess LDL cholesterol levels from arteries and keeps blood vessels clean.
Does the American Diabetes Association Recommend the Mediterranean Diet?
There are numerous health benefits to the Mediterranean-type diet. The Mediterranean-type diet was found to improve fasting glucose and A1C levels for those with type 2 diabetes. It has a positive effect with those with insulin sensitivities. There is an 83% lower risk of developing diabetes for those who follow this diet.
The Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk factors of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Use olive oil and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to help control blood pressure.
What is the Mediterranean Diet all about? It originated in the cradle of civilization. More and more by physicians and patients alike recognize and accept the Mediterranean diet as a way to prevent many diseases.
The diet consists of plentiful use of olive oil, whole grains, legumes, pasta, nutrient-dense vegetables, fruit, herbs, garlic, red onions, fish, eggs, and a moderate amount of meat and red wine.
The Mediterranean Diet limits foods with excess calories when it has little nutritional value. The Mediterranean Diet represents an active lifestyle.
Some 2400 years ago, Hippocrates the Greek said, “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
Please Leave a Comment
I would love to hear your thoughts on the Mediterranean Diet. Do you think it is something you could practice? Would you be able to eat this way for the rest of your life like Ancel Keys did?
Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist, or a doctor. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.