We hear about new diets all the time, and fads will come and go quite quickly. When it comes to fad diets, however, you usually regain any weight you lose as soon as you start eating normally again.
The reason that fads don’t last is often that the science isn’t really there behind them to support long term results. But one of the oldest diets in the world may be one of the very best to try if you want to lose weight or improve your health, and this one is well supported by science.
Let’s have a look at what the Mediterranean Diet is and why it could be beneficial for you.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet, funnily enough, comes from the Mediterranean part of Europe and is hundreds of years old. It is based on the traditional cuisines of the people who lived in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
While we do get great foods like pasta and pizza from these cuisines, the Mediterranean diet is far from a giant bowl of spaghetti, bread, and cheese with every meal.
The big flavors, vibrant colors, and rustic cooking methods of these cuisines have helped people from this part of the globe to long and healthy lives.
Medical experts started to study this kind of diet when it was noticed that people from Greece and Italy had far lower rates of heart disease and chronic conditions than people in the US.
It has been studied at length and evidence is so strong for the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet that it is recommended by the World Health Organization and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
So what is the secret?
The secret to eating healthily that this diet taps into is knowing which foods to have in moderation, and then really respecting and enjoying those ingredients when we do.
The diet is generally plant-based and full of whole, unprocessed foods. It is a filling diet, however, and with the right foods in the right quantities, you shouldn’t go hungry.
It encourages the consumption of healthy fats such as olive oil, fatty fish like salmon and lush and lovely avocados. It also encourages mindful cooking and eating, so that people slow down their lives, and sit down to enjoy their meals with family and friends.
It is a colorful diet that encourages you to eat your food in big varieties but with as little processing as possible, so, basically enjoying food in its natural state.
If you can just picture yourself wandering in a sun-filled garden patch picking fruit and vegetables to eat warm and fresh for dinner, then this diet might be the one for you.
The central components of the Mediterranean Diet include:
- Eating a wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats every day
- Eating fish, poultry, legumes, beans, and eggs regularly
- Having a reduced intake of red meat and dairy products
- Red wine in moderation
- Little to no saturated and trans fats and added sugars.
Why is the Mediterranean Diet good for you?
The biggest reason why this diet is considered so healthy is that it is low in saturated and trans fats, and high instead in monounsaturated, or healthy, fats.
Healthy fats are needed by your body to lower cholesterol as well as encourage the health of things like skin, hair, bones, teeth, and nails. Healthy fats are also wonderful for mood and cognition, helping your brain to be the best it can be.
Who would benefit from the Mediterranean Diet?
For a Healthy Heart
The Mediterranean diet is most often recommended for people suffering from or at risk of heart disease. Switching to this way of eating will help to reduce cholesterol almost immediately.
Experts believe that this diet is good for your heart and blood pressure because it is lower in the artery blocking, blood clotting properties that contribute to heart disease, obesity, and stroke.
For Weight Loss
If you switch to this diet it has been shown through a number of medical studies to help people lose weight and keep it off. It is easier to stick to long term as well because you are less likely to feel hungry and crave those foods that you shouldn’t be having.
Good for Skin
The increased intake of healthy Omega-3 fats is wonderful for your skin, helping to keep it moisturized and supple. People who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema whose skin naturally dries out have reported great benefits from following a Mediterranean diet.
For a Sharp Brain
Studies show that people who stick to this kind of diet may also have a reduced likelihood of suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips for Eating the Mediterranean Way
Eat fruit and vegetables with every meal, and cook these as little as possible. Stay away from carbohydrate-rich vegetables like potato and corn, and instead try for a rainbow of color in your fresh produce including red, orange, purple and green.
Half of every meal should be plant-based, so you should be aiming to fill half your plate with salad, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, or mixed fruit and berries.
Use olive oil instead of other oils for cooking, and also use olive oil or avocado as a spread on bread instead of butter or margarine. Use olive oil as a base for making your own salad dressings.
Eat fish and seafood at least four or five times a week. Grill or steam seafood instead of frying it.
Roast or grill your food rather than deep frying. Use a wide range of herbs and spices to help flavor your meals rather than adding salt.
Eat food that is big in flavor in moderation, and really slow down and enjoy it. Appreciate a grass-fed, lean steak once or twice a week, or a slow glass of red wine, or a strong and bitey cheese.
Cook with friends at home rather than eating out or getting takeout. Sit down to eat at the table and eat mindfully, enjoying this moment in time. Appreciate each flavor and each mouthful and take your time.
Eat your larger meal at lunchtime, followed by a walk in the afternoon. Keep your evening meal light and small, sticking to salad, grilled vegetables or soup for dinner.