With so much bluster about diet, it can be tricky to know what works. What type of eating plan has actual evidence to support its health-giving, life-extending, belly fat-melting benefits?
Keto… Paleo… Low calorie… Juice fasting… The alkaline diet?
Pause for a moment and ask yourself.
If your mind has flicked to the Mediterranean diet, you've got it! This eating style is well-researched and has repeatedly been shown to deliver potent health benefits.
Let's look at 5 ways the Mediterranean diet can support your health.
Heart and blood vessel health
Your cardiovascular system acts as the pump and network that delivers blood — and the nutrients it contains — around the body and brain. But things commonly go awry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone dies in America from cardiovascular disease (CVD) every 34 seconds.
Heart attacks and strokes claim the lives of millions of people every year. But death isn't the only consequence. CVD can cause symptoms that threaten the quality of life: chest pain, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.
So, how might the Mediterranean diet help?
Heart and blood vessel health are negatively affected by diabetes, being overweight, consuming an unhealthy diet, and drinking too much alcohol. Following the Mediterranean diet helps to address these factors. It's also a powerful CVD preventer.
A study published in the journal, Circulation put it succinctly when they said:
The available evidence is large, strong, and consistent. Better conformity with the traditional [Mediterranean diet] is associated with better cardiovascular health outcomes, including… reductions in rates of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and total cardiovascular disease.
As the second most common cause of death, there's a good chance you know someone who's had cancer. You might have suffered (or be suffering) from this illness yourself. The National Cancer Institute noted that just under two in five Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point. This brings us to the protective potential associated with following the Mediterranean diet.
The authors of the article, Cancer and Mediterranean Diet: A Review, summed up the findings of several studies. The results? Regular consumption of fiber- and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, a modest intake of dairy and alcohol, and a low meat intake may be the "optimal combination in the prevention of cancer."
Hope for the prevention and treatment of clinical depression
Do you struggle with a low mood?
The melancholy, loss of interest and pleasure, brain fog, and emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms that can come with clinical depression?
The Mediterranean diet may provide hope for preventing and treating this common illness.
A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity followed people for an average of 20.4 years. The authors looked at diet and the risk of receiving a diagnosis of depression. The results showed that those who followed a Mediterranean eating style, either strongly or moderately, had a significantly lower risk of depression later in life. The greater the adherence, the lower the risk. This was especially so for severe depression.
And if you have a clinical depression diagnosis?
Recent research investigated the effect of starting and sticking to the Mediterranean diet. A group of men followed the diet for 12 weeks. By adhering to the diet, depressive symptoms were reduced, and quality of life increased.
Enhanced cognitive function
Is your brain easily able to focus and quick to problem-solve?
Or is your cognition more sluggish than you'd like?
Are you worried that your brain function will decline with age?
The Mediterranean diet could be your answer.
This diet has also been linked with slowed cognitive decline, a lower chance that mild cognitive impairment will worsen, and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Belly fat-melting power
The worst place to carry excess fat is around your middle. Belly fat (visceral fat) increases your risk of illnesses like CVD, diabetes, and dementia. A muffin top and love handles also ruin a slim silhouette.
Again, the Mediterranean diet might be your solution.
Research shows it reduces visceral fat. But there's a way to supercharge the effect.
A study published in BMC Medicine journal investigated 294 participants in three groups. The first followed healthy dietary guidelines, the second followed the Mediterranean diet, and the third followed a supercharged Mediterranean diet called the "green Med."
After 18 months, weight loss, waist circumference, and visceral fat were measured.
The results? (Drum roll please…)
Both groups following the Mediterranean diet achieved similar weight loss and reduced waist circumference results. However, the green Med group doubled the loss of tummy fat. Yes, doubled!
The green Med diet contained higher amounts of plant-based polyphenols (including green tea and walnuts) and less red and processed meat.
So, how do you follow this eating style?
The "how to" of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is distinguished by its:
— ample intake of vegetables, fresh fruit, (non-refined) cereals, nuts, and olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil, in particular)
— modest intake of dairy products and fish
— low intake of red meats
It also features only moderate alcohol consumption with meals. Red wine, anyone?
The Mediterranean diet takeaway
With so much passionate opinion behind the supposed "right" diet, it can be challenging to sort the wheat from the chaff. To work out which fare will treat your body and brain well.
When opinions abound, it's helpful to look at your goals and the research. There is a range of diets that may give you short-term benefits. If they help you achieve your aims, great!
But the Mediterranean diet leads the pack for long-term well-being — the best-proven diet to supercharge health and promote longer life.
For cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, hope for the prevention and treatment of clinical depression, cognitive function performance, and belly fat-melting power, this diet packs a potent, positive health punch!