What is the Mediterranean diet really?

What is the Mediterranean diet really?

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There are no “superfoods” in the Mediterranean diet: it is the whole that brings health benefits.

Surely you have heard that the Mediterranean diet is good for your health. But do you know exactly what it is and how it benefits your body?

A typical Mediterranean diet includes many vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals and carbohydrate-rich products such as wholemeal bread, pasta and brown rice.

It also contains moderate amounts of fish, white meat and some dairy products.

And also used to cook and season especially olive oil.

Roasted fish and vegetables
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Image caption Consuming less meat and a moderate amount of fish and chicken are key habits in Mediterranean eating habits.

It’s the combination of all these foods that seems to give health benefits, says Victoria Taylor, a dietetic specialist at the British Heart Foundation .

What benefits does it have for health?

Much research on the traditional Mediterranean diet has shown that this type of diet can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, which are three risk factors for heart disease.

A salad of cheese, olives, tomatoes and lettuce.
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Image caption Eating the Mediterranean is linked to good blood pressure, low cholesterol, a healthier weight and a longer life.

In addition, several studies found that people who faithfully follow the Mediterranean diet have a longer life expectancy and a lower probability of being overweight.

Why does it work so well for our body?

According to Taylor, “it is the combination of food, rather than individual ‘superfoods’, that makes this way of eating so healthy.”

One of the key aspects is the inclusion of healthy fats, he says.

Fish, nines and other foods rich in healthy oils
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Image caption The healthy oils present in the Mediterranean diet are associated with lower cholesterol levels.

Replacing butter with olive oil, which has monounsaturated fats , helps keep cholesterol levels at bay, says the Mayo Clinic, a US-based international medical center.

The diet also frequently includes other types of beneficial fats, polyunsaturated fats , which are present in nuts, seeds and fatty fish.

In addition, the Mayo Clinic highlights the health benefits of other eating habits, such as:

  • Reduce the consumption of salt, replacing it with herbs and spices to flavor the dishes
  • Limit the consumption of red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eat fish and chicken at least twice a week

All these are elements of the diet in different countries of the Mediterranean Sea.

The traditional diet of the Greeks, for example, includes very little red meat and a daily average of nine servings of vegetables and fruits rich in antioxidants.

How can you follow a more Mediterranean diet?

A group of friends toasting the table
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Image caption You can consume alcohol, as long as it is in moderation.

If your diet is unhealthy and full of processed foods, then it is unlikely that adding a single item, such as olive oil, will mark a significant change in your health, Taylor said.

“However, if you adjust your entire diet, eat a little less meat and more fish, choose healthy fats and eat more fruit and vegetables, then the change could make a significant difference,” he said.

Lately there has been much debate about whether fat or sugar is the worst element of our contemporary diets.

“But if we focus on individual components of the diet we run the risk of not seeing the whole scene,” said the expert.

Olives
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Image caption Olives are a classic in the diets of Mediterranean countries.

“While it is important to understand how different foods and nutrients affect your health, assessing the diet as a whole is a much more useful approach when it comes to rethinking our decisions and habits,” added the nutritionist.

Living near the warm waters of the Mediterranean, with lots of light, fresh fish and delicious dishes at any corner will surely help you to follow this diet naturally.

But if you propose it, surely with some adjustments you can also achieve it from a distance.

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Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.

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