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Why the Mediterranean Diet is America’s #1 Choice for Healthy Eating

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As the weather heats up, it’s time to shed those thick winter clothes and reveal what’s been hidden underneath. Many people decide to diet as the temperatures rise. While physical activity is key to losing weight, what you eat is equally important. Rather than starving yourself, the start and endpoint of a diet should be a well-balanced meal plan that considers nutrients. Let’s look at the Mediterranean diet, which has recently gained attention.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a meal plan featuring Mediterranean-style food. It gained popularity after being ranked first in the Best Diet Rankings by US News & World Report. Recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013, this diet reflects the eating habits of Mediterranean coastal residents in the 1960s. One of its greatest strengths is how easy it is to follow.

Components of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet starts with distinguishing between foods that should be eaten daily and those that should be eaten periodically. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains, olive oil, and herbs are foods to enjoy daily, while fish, seafood, poultry, cheese, eggs, and yogurt are limited to about twice a week. Red meat is consumed about twice a month, and foods to avoid are sugars and white flour.

Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner

In the Mediterranean diet, it’s important to maintain a 4:3:3 ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each meal should include carbohydrates from whole-grain bread or mixed-grain rice. Protein should come from low-fat fish and poultry, and fresh vegetable side dishes rich in antioxidants should be eaten at every meal. Also, low-fat dairy products, nuts containing good fats, and antioxidant-rich fruits should be eaten as snacks.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet offers numerous health benefits. Olive oil, a daily staple, is packed with oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that helps lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. The foods in this diet can also activate the endothelial cell layer, potentially alleviating depression. Most importantly, it’s an excellent choice for those managing diabetes.

Is it good for weight loss?

Some might worry that the Mediterranean diet, which encourages eating at every meal, might have a counterproductive effect on weight loss. While the Mediterranean diet does involve consuming a lot of calories, it can help suppress obesity and prevent cardiovascular diseases. The Mediterranean diet is rich in enzyme components, specifically alpha-linolenic acid, polyphenols, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve blood flow and aid in weight loss.

Drink plenty of water

When following the Mediterranean diet, drinking plenty of water is important. Coffee and tea are fine, but you should avoid sugary drinks and fruit juices with high sugar content. As previously mentioned, avoiding sugars is crucial while on this diet. Including a glass of red wine in your daily routine is recommended, but if you’re sensitive to alcohol, it can be counterproductive. In such cases, it’s better to exclude wine from your diet.

Avoid processed foods

Although the Mediterranean diet does include a certain amount of meat, it is primarily plant-based. Consuming whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, nuts, beans, herbs, and spices is important. When cooking, almost all dishes are made with olive oil, which minimizes the increase in cholesterol levels. And importantly, you should avoid processed foods as much as possible, which can be hard to do in our daily lives. Instead of processed foods, filling up on fresh vegetables is the start of the Mediterranean diet.

What are the effects?

The traditional Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of various diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Above all, it can significantly aid in weight loss. The effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet is mainly compared by looking at the health status of people living on the Mediterranean coast and Americans. According to research results, people in Mediterranean countries are much healthier than the average American, and the incidence of various diseases is significantly lower.

How the Mediterranean diet became known

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet were first advocated by American biologist Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys in 1975, but it did not become widely known until the 1990s. The Mediterranean diet began to receive public attention in the mid-1990s by Walter Willett and his colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health. As mentioned earlier, their research showed that people living in Mediterranean countries had a much lower incidence of cardiovascular disease despite consuming similar amounts of fat.

Research suggests it can promote longevity

According to research from Harvard Medical School, the Mediterranean diet can also help with longevity. The research team published a study in the British Medical Journal showing that those who adhered to a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres. The length of telomeres is thought to be related to longevity. They speculated that the prevention of telomere shortening acceleration was due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and nuts, core components of the Mediterranean diet.

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