The Mediterranean diet isn’t termed the healthiest diet for no reason. It comes with lots of benefits and this is evidenced by the longer life spans of people in regions where it is predominantly adopted.
Experts also believe that the incorporated physical activity, reduced alcohol intake, and cessation of smoking among others are some of the fundamental reasons for the benefits.
The diet is credited for being high in monosaturated fats and dietary fiber. Most of the health benefits are believed to be a result of the use of olive oil which contains oleic acid.
Oleic acid has been linked to a lowered risk of all-cause death, stroke, and other related problems.
Here is a detailed view of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet:
1. Eliminates the Consumption of Sugars and Processed Foods
Much like a low-carb diet, the Mediterranean diet gets rid of sugars and processed foods. It is mainly composed of vegetables, fruits, some legumes, and nuts.
The diet is free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and other chemicals as well as GMOs. It is also incredibly low on sugars.
In place of sugars, people on a Mediterranean diet largely consume fruits. Also, they may substitute it with small amounts of dessert made with honey.
Seafood and fish, along with cheese from home-bred animals such as sheep, cows or goats make a great source of healthy fats and cholesterol for the diet.
The diet is easy on vegans since it is mostly made up of mostly vegetables with only a small amount of heavier meal types or meat.
This type of eating is particularly beneficial for those who are wishing to lose weight as well as those looking to balance the cholesterol levels in their body.
2. Encourages Healthy and Sustainable Weight Loss
Following a Mediterranean diet may just well be the easiest way of losing and maintaining a healthy weight.
The upside is that you don’t have to go hungry to lose weight. By sticking to this eating pattern, you will naturally reduce the intake of fats with a guaranteed and manageable body weight.
Incidentally, you are at liberty to choose what delivers the best results; be it a low-carb diet or a low-protein eating plan. Whatever fits, there is enough room for one to have optional plans.
Notably, since the diet keeps the carbs low and improves the quality of nourishing fats; and with the high amounts of seafood at your disposal, you can easily lose weight without a hassle. Plus, you can always top this up with high-quality dairy products for probiotics.
The reason this diet works for weight loss is that it is easy to follow, it isn’t restrictive compared to other diets, and you still get to eat your favorite foods!
It is, however, worth remembering that to achieve the best results, following the Mediterranean diet for at least six months is highly recommended.
Exercise should also be included as it speeds up the process of burning fat. All one needs to do is limit the intake of foods that may deter them from their weight loss journey.
Weight loss through a Mediterranean diet is supported by a 2008 study published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study focused on 322 people with obesity who were put on a calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet, a calorie-restricted low-fat diet, or an unrestricted low-carb diet.
The findings showed that the participants put on a calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet lost more weight than the low-fat group. The low-carb diet group lost the most weight, but only by a negligible amount.
Therefore, the researchers safely concluded that the Mediterranean diet could be highly effective for losing some pounds of fat.
3. Improves Heart Health
Ancel Keys, in the 1950s long established that the Mediterranean diet is good for the heart. Through his Seven Countries Study, Ancel determined that the heart health benefits are partly due to an active lifestyle, the prohibition of too much eating of red meat and sugars all of which reduced or eliminated the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.
The monosaturated fat which constitutes a good concentration and function of good cholesterol in the body balances and lowers levels of bad cholesterol keeping heart issues and risks at bay.
As we established while discussing the history of the Mediterranean diet, adherence to this meal pattern is also associated with low mortality rates caused by cardiovascular diseases.
The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) contained in the olive oil has a protective effect that is ideal for lowering the rate of cardiac deaths by 30 percent and sudden cardiac deaths by 45 percent.
In another study that compared high blood pressure in individuals consuming lots of sunflower oil and those with an increased intake of extra-virgin olive oil, it was found that those on extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower achieved decreased blood pressure by substantial amounts.
Other benefits of olive oil include making nitric oxide more bioavailable, a function that is significant in lowering hypertension.
This is realized when arteries are free from vasoconstricting and as a result, optimal blood pressure is maintained.
Moreover, olive oil enhances the endothelial function while simultaneously preventing the body from the harmful consequences of oxidation.
4. Helps Fight Cancer
Some studies suggest that there is a 6 percent decreased risk of dying from cancer if you follow a Mediterranean diet; strictly.
This notion is in line with another meta-analysis that established that the Mediterranean diet causes a decreased rate of cancer.
That diet helps in fighting cancer is undoubtedly true. More studies including this, this, and this one also reported similar results. These studies revealed that the consumption of olive oil is indeed ideal in lowering the development of cancer.
The working principle in cancer prevention when one follows a Mediterranean diet is owed to the balanced ratio of essential fatty acids and the elevated amounts of dietary fiber, polyphenols, and the antioxidants contained in the Mediterranean food list.
The Mediterranean diet is antioxidant-rich, it prevents DNA damage, inhibits cell mutation, fights inflammations, and delays the potential growth of tumors.
It is also commonly believed that olive oil is beneficial in treating cancer and the potential development of stomach and colon cancers. This is done by reducing oxidative stress, sustenance of a healthy weight, and the tendency to enhance optimum levels of blood sugar.
5. Helps in the Prevention or the Treatment of Diabetes
Apart from helping you stay free from the risk of getting cancer, the Mediterranean diet is also known to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.
Individuals with the disease following the diet stand a better chance of preventing it and improving their glycemic control. Several studies, including one conducted in 2014 found that the Mediterranean diet is linked with a lowered chance of getting type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, following the diet is key to experiencing lower fasting glucose levels. If you compare the diet with the dietary guidelines for people with diabetes as per the American Diabetes Association (ADA), they are very similar.
The diet, according to another study, functions as an anti-inflammatory meal plan that is ideal for fighting illnesses related to chronic inflammations, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome included.
When one balances whole foods and regulates blood sugar levels, the body burns more fats effectively keeping them juiced up throughout the day.
Normally, what makes part of a natural diet for people with diabetes is a low-sugar diet with fresh produce and healthy fats – just like the Mediterranean diet.
Different associations, including the American Heart Association, agree that the diet has enough fats (higher than the typical amounts found in an American diet). The stipulated dietary aide involves a ratio of 40 percent carbs, 30-40 percent healthy fats, and 20-30 percent quality proteins.
This balance ensures that your body maintains hormonal homeostasis, which means that your insulin levels are minimized. This ratio is perfect for managing hunger and keeping your body weight in check.
Drinking plenty of water, coffee, and wine in moderation makes part of the diet. Keeping all these factors in check, and exercising ensures that the levels of blood sugar aren’t elevated. Hence the reason for rare instances of insulin resistance.
6. Improves the Brain Function
One other reason to follow the Mediterranean diet is that it is good for your cognitive ability. It preserves your memory and fights diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. it also treats dementia.
Usually, these cognitive disorders arise mainly because the brain doesn’t get enough amounts of dopamine, which helps in regulating mood, body movements, sound, and thought processing.
A Mediterranean-style meal or salad with olive oil or nuts, anti-inflammatory veggies, and fruits are backed by science as a means to fight the decline of a person’s cognitive function.
As such, following the diet keeps the free radicals away, and protects against exposure to toxic substances, inflammations, and allergies that affect one’s thinking capacity.
Based on a systematic review published in 2013, researchers established that the Mediterranean diet, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive decline were all correlated.
Although the studies covering the topic are only a handful, there are a few out there that have found that the diet reduces the chances of one getting Alzheimer’s disease.
One study, in particular, additionally established that there was a negative association with the potential of the progress from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating probiotic foods which include kefir and whole fat yogurt, which are good for your gut has also been proven to improve a person’s mood, foster brain functionality, and improve memory.
7. Helps You Live Longer
This point is supported by Ancel Key’s study (previously mentioned). The diet wins as the best meal pattern for leading a long and healthy life.
The Mediterranean diet prevents early deaths resulting from cardiovascular diseases, factors related to brain function, and diabetes as evidenced by the numerous studies on diet.
The diet eliminates some of the leading causes of death including depression, heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and cognitive disorders, among others.
The famous Lyon Diet Heart Study, which affirmed that the Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of all-cause death by 45 percent compared to other diets is a perfect testimony.
In the study, it was proven that the Mediterranean diet style of eating lowers the risk of earth disease by 70 percent.
This figure is close to three times the reduction potential realized by many cholesterol-lowering prescription drugs.
But although the diet is ideal for bringing down the levels of LDL, the study further hinted that heart disease is more than just cholesterol.
There was no significant change in the levels of cholesterol. The benefits of the diet depicted by the study were groundbreaking and it has since been a topic of review.
8. Fosters a Relaxed and a Stress-Free Life
As we mentioned before, the Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle than a diet. It gives one a chance to indulge in various activities including interaction with nature, harvesting local produce, or visiting farmers and their farms.
By doing this, one spends enough time in nature, gets enough sleep, and bonds with family and friends.
Far from these physical activities, the diet’s food list which includes probiotics and prebiotics is good for improving your mood and helping you stay calm and relaxed. The same benefit can be derived from the diet’s positive influence on your brain function.
Similarly, workouts, eating healthy meals, and dining at your own pace and comfort help one in maintaining a happy mood.
And with the diet including doing red wine in moderation, there is no doubt about aging gracefully. Better yet, the Mediterranean diet helps fight against weight loss issues among others. It keeps different health complications, hormonal imbalances, inflammations, and fatigue at bay.
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are akin to those of eating a balanced diet. They help you reduce the risks of getting certain diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and various cognitive disorders.
Interestingly, it helps you maintain a happy mood and develop a healthy relationship with your body. As far as weight loss is concerned, it makes a great way of sustaining a healthy weight in the long run.