The ever-changing landscape of what foods are “good” and “bad” can be frustrating, confusing, and harmful to our mental health. One way of eating has come up several times among our conversations with our members so we figured we’d do a deep dive. The Mediterranean diet is gaining popularity due to its comprehensive lifestyle revamp. The combination of an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, and celebrating good food and company is making people want to ditch the fads for good. Continue reading for everything you need to know about this lifestyle that is scientifically proven to be beneficial for your health!
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a primarily plant-based diet that is based on the eating and socializing patterns of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. The diet primarily consists of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and olive oil. Other staples include fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, chicken, lamb, and even red wine (in moderation). Not only are these components generally lower-calorie than their Western diet counterparts, but they are also loaded with fiber and antioxidants. Fiber keeps us feeling fuller, longer because it is generally slow to digest. Also, consumption of fiber has been shown to increase “good” bacteria in the gut, which are thought to decrease inflammation throughout the body. Antioxidants are responsible for neutralizing free radicals – unstable compounds that cause damage to other cells and tissues. The increase in fiber and antioxidants are both thought to contribute to the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of the Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean diet also emphasizes healthy unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats come from sources like olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish. Consumption of these fats is associated with decreased risk of cardiac events when compared to saturated fats, which are common in the American diet. Research suggests that unsaturated fats, specifically omega-3’s, may improve brain function and prevent age-related cognitive diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
How long do I have to follow this diet?
A major draw to the Mediterranean diet is that it’s not a diet – it’s a lifestyle! It sounds cliché, but one of the reasons why people are able to adhere to the Mediterranean diet for so long is because there is no need to cut out entire food groups or count calories. Instead, the focus is on fresh, whole foods in the correct portion sizes and embracing the social components of mealtimes. People enjoy it because they can still go out to eat with friends, host dinner parties, and even sip on a glass of red wine; there is no need to ditch your social life or feel deprived.
There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to nutrition. True wellness manifests as a result of an all-encompassing lifestyle change involving more than just diet. Based on current research and the recommendations of health professionals, the Mediterranean Diet is a promising approach to achieve optimal health and longevity while maintaining a healthy relationship with food.