The Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet) is reflective of an eating pattern that is traditional to countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. Luckily you don’t have to travel to Greece to follow A Mediterranean Diet, you just need to go to the grocery store.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

Eating primarily plant-based foods. These include Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts

Using olive oil and canola oil instead of butter

Using herbs and spices to flavor foods without the use of salt

Consuming red meat only a few times a month

Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week

Drinking red wine in moderation (of course optional)

Enjoying meals with family and friends and proper amounts of exercise1

Evidenced-based research has shown that the benefits of the MedDiet, in relation to cardiovascular disease, mainly effect blood pressure, lipid profiles (cholesterol and triglyceride levels, etc.), metabolism of glucose, the microbiome of the gut (AKA gut bacteria), and arrhythmic risk. The most important of these, blood pressure and lipid profile.4 Following a traditional Mediterranean diet reduces your risk of heart disease and is associated with drops in oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is what is usually known as the “Bad Cholesterol” and is much more likely to build up within the arteries. Various meta-analyses have demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality. Other diseases that are associated with benefits from following a Mediterranean diet are Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and reduced incidence of cancer. In addition, females who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer. 1

Research has found that the antioxidants found in a lot of foods (mainly fruits and vegetables) on the Mediterranean diet, especially in olive oil, provide the beneficial effects of the diet towards chronic diseases, and cardiometabolic risk factors. Many randomized controlled trials consistently show this. Being the main source of fat in the MedDiet, olive oil serves as a control or the main factor in producing many of the beneficial effects observed in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality. Eight randomized controlled trials were reviewed using olive oil as a control or intervention, and all consistently indicated that following a MedDiet, can decrease your cardiometabolic risk factors.

Olive oil has a beneficial ratio of Omega 3: Omega 6 Fatty Acids. Continuing research has shown that these fatty acids are potentially beneficial for cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors. Another source rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that are emphasized on the MedDiet is seafood.

For these reasons and more, most major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt to the Mediterranean diet, or a similar dietary pattern, for prevention of major chronic diseases. 1 In fact, The United States Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services has recognized the MedDiet as a healthy dietary pattern in the most recent guidelines (2015-2020) set for American citizens. 3

In this blog series, we will be exploring the various food groups that make up the MedDiet, important nutrients found within these foods, and how you can incorporate this dietary pattern and its associated benefits into your life.

References

1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801
2. Metabolomics and Microbiomes as Potential Tools to Evaluate the Effects of the Mediterranean Diet
3. Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health

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