Primarily based on food traditions from Southern Italy and Greece, the Mediterranean Diet includes a barrage of fresh vegetables, grains, and protein. It has garnered plenty of attention over the last decade or so, as people have began to realise that the diet of the Mediterranean people IS actually very healthy. Here are a few reasons why you may want to incorporate some of their dietary practices into your own daily meal plan.
Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Decrease Chances of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
One health advantage to eating like the Mediterranean people is that you’re less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The reason is because this diet is very high in fiber, and fiber helps to slow down digestion and decreases large swings in blood glucose levels. This benefit alone should be enough to change the eating habits of millions of people around the world.
Prevent Stroke and Heart Disease
Another important benefit to practicing the Mediterranean diet is that it can actually help prevent strokes and heart disease. Many of the foods that promote these deadly diseases are discouraged in this type of diet plan (processed foods, red meat, refined bread) and instead replaced with high protein fish, whole grain bread, and red wine.
Reduced Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
Foods that contain large amounts of antioxidants are great for fighting and preventing alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet is loaded with fresh vegetables, fruits and beans, many of which are very rich in antioxidants (tomatoes, olive oil, walnuts, red beans, pinto beans). Studies have shown that people who practice this diet are less likely to develop the disease.
Prevent and Reduce High Blood Pressure
The Mediterranean diet is low in sodium. Instead of salt, herbs and spices are the primary source for flavoring food. This makes the diet plan low in sodium, and ultimately cuts your risk of developing high blood pressure in half. You can also reduce high blood pressure with the limited salt intake. This benefit alone could potentially save thousands of lives each year.
The Physical Side of the Mediterranean Diet
Now, you can’t mention the health benefits of following a Mediterranean diet without also talking about the physical aspects that go along with this lifestyle. People in the Mediterranean are typically not as sedentary as those that live in the West.
This means that in order to reap the full benefits of changing to this meal plan, you would definitely need to add some additional physical exercise to your day. This could be something light like yard work or housework, or a more intense workout in the gym. The main goal is to make sure that you include plenty of movement and physical activity along with eating the fruits, vegetables grains, and protein. This will help you to maximize the benefits, and stay in tip top physical condition.
So, to answer the question, the Mediterranean diet is definitely all it’s cracked up to be. It includes fresh fruits and vegetables on a large scale, and discourages unsafe foods like processed flour and sugar, excess red meat, and packaged foods.
If you’re looking to switch over to this diet, it’s important to remember that an increase in physical activity can enhance the benefits of eating like the Mediterraneans. Most people won’t be able to totally switch overnight, so don’t feel bad if you find that you still crave salt, sweets or red meat after getting started.
Changing your diet is a gradual process, and will take some time. The most important takeaway is to just get started, no matter how small the changes are.