Get ready to break out your hummus because recent studies have shown that the Mediterranean Diet has a plethora of cardiovascular health benefits. But before you dive in for bruschetta and paella at your nearest tapas bar, take a quick read to understand the basics of the Mediterranean Diet, the health benefits it provides, and some of our favorite recipes.
What is the mediterranean diet?
As the name implies, the Mediterranean Diet is a diet inspired by the traditional eating habits of populations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Originally formulated in the 1960s, the diet drew upon the eating habits of European nations such as Spain, Italy, and Greece. In recent years, the diet began to draw inspiration from other Mediterranean cultures, particularly those in Western Asia and North Africa.
Due to the diversity of cultural influences this diet bases itself upon, there are many variations. However, the typical Mediterranean Diet generally includes the following components:
- A high intake of olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes and nuts.
- A moderate intake of fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products and red wine.
- A low intake of red or processed meat, refined carbohydrates and candy.
One thing nutritionists love about this diet is the emphasis on moderation. Unlike the popular Keto and Atkins diets, the Mediterranean Diet does not require any particular food group or type of food to be cut out completely. Even alcoholic drinks like red wine, packed with antioxidants, are a staple part of this diet, providing it does not clash with the follower’s social beliefs. As long as everything is enjoyed in moderation, those who follow this diet will benefit from healthy bodies and minds.
Nutritionists also note that this diet is high in healthy fats. Around 30% of this diet’s caloric intake comes from fats, about 8% of these being saturated fats. But how can this high intake of unsaturated fats aid our bodies?
According to a study published in September 2021 by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diets high in unsaturated fats may help to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugars. Fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil are all high in these beneficial unsaturated fats.
Furthermore, studies dating back to 2013 have shown that the Mediterranean Diet is highly effective in decreasing cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk markers. Even the American Heart Association has discussed the Mediterranean Diet’s benefits in improving cardiovascular health. But the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet do not stop at the cardiovascular system.
Other health benefits
This high-monounsaturated fat diet has a plethora of other benefits for one’s physical health. Both a 2008 review and a 2014 review linked the Mediterranean Diet with a decreased risk of dying of cancer. In 2017, a study revealed that the diet led to a lower incidence of neurodegenerative diseases and early death.
The diet can even aid mental health and cognitive ability. Greater adherence to the Mediterranean Diet correlated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a slower cognitive decline in 2013. In fact, a Spanish study in 2021 showed a 20% decline in the risk of dementia among the group that adhered strongest to the diet. Furthermore, there is a correlation between adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and lower risk of major depressive disorder.
It is evident that the Mediterranean Diet holds many physical and mental health benefits for those who choose to adhere to it. It is easy to start with plenty of delicious, easy-to-make recipes right at your fingertips. Here are some of our favorites here at Her Campus PSU!