Young couple in kitchen hugging and cutting vegetables.

Med Diet and You

Now that you have a more grounded understanding of what the Mediterranean Diet is and how it can affect your life, based on last week's post, here are ten additional health benefits to ponder, and tip the scales while you lighten the load on the scales.

Reasons 6-15 to consider the Mediterranean Diet:

Six: The Mediterranean diet encourages healthy weight loss.

The main way this diet helps people lose weight is that it’s easier to stick in the long-term when compared with many other, more restrictive diets. Because you still get to eat most of your favorite foods, you’ll feel satiated and more likely to keep it up.

However, to see maximum weight loss benefits from this nutrition plan, you should expect to follow the Mediterranean diet for at least six months – forever, if you can. Also, incorporate some form of regular physical exercise into your lifestyle, and keep an eye on your portions. While you are encouraged to eat small amounts of breads and carbs on this diet, these can quickly add up if you’re not careful – and sabotage your weight loss goals.

Seven: The Mediterranean diet helps fight cancer.

Studies have shown that following this kind of eating plan can lead to a reduced risk of developing cancer, and cancer-related mortality. According to research, there is a “probable” protective role that the Mediterranean diet plays when it comes to cancer prevention. As well, studies have indicated a positive association between this lifestyle and specific cancer sites.

In particular, this diet has been especially effective at helping prevent the development of postmenopausal breast cancer – which is very good news, since this type of breast cancer often comes with a poor prognosis.

Eight: The Mediterranean diet protects cognitive health.

Not only will following this diet reduce your risk of developing degenerative cognitive conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s, it will actually improve your cognition. Studies indicate that followers of the Mediterranean diet benefit from enhanced memory and superior attention and focus. As well, the diet was associated with significant amelioration to the brain’s language capabilities.

This is certainly important for older adults who hope to fend off dementia, but it’s also great for younger people who want to maintain their brain function throughout their lives. You’ll experience better job performance, a healthier outlook, and considerably enhanced quality of life.

Nine: The Mediterranean diet encourages relaxation.

While following a Mediterranean diet, you should also look to adopt other aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle – like making mealtime a more social experience and spending more time exercising and getting outside. These activities have a huge impact on your health, more than you might think. You’ll be eating nutritious healthy foods, and benefiting from a more positive lifestyle.

This lifestyle can give you better tools to manage life’s many stresses, leaving you feeling more upbeat, relaxed, and refreshed. Chronic stress can be incredibly damaging to your overall health and well-being, but the Mediterranean diet can help you fight it off. You’ll sleep better, enjoy more energy, and even build more substantial relationships with your loved ones.

Ten: The Mediterranean diet can enhance your mood.

People who suffer from mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, and even ADHD can enjoy some of the brain-boosting benefits of the Mediterranean diet. These disorders can occur when your brain isn’t getting enough dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for thought processing, body movements, and mood regulation.

However, the healthy fats and probiotic foods included and encouraged through this eating plan help your body produce this chemical – keeping your mood elevated and your brain happy. They’ll also contribute to gut health, which is a major trigger for mood disorders.

While researchers recommend that people continue with regular treatment programs, switching up your diet to adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle can be a fantastic supplement to traditional therapies. With time, you may find that you no longer require pharmacological interference.

Eleven: The Mediterranean diet fights inflammation.

Studies investigating the impact of a Mediterranean diet on inflammation biomarkers in high-risk individuals revealed that this kind of nutrition plan can reduce and regulate these markers – controlling inflammation within the body and preventing the many concerns and conditions that may arise from chronic inflammation.

Since a major trigger for inflammation is your body’s exposure to oxidative stress, the high concentration of antioxidants found in foods encouraged by the Mediterranean diet can make a huge impact on this system. You can take advantage of this impact even more by upping your intake of foods containing choline, which is found in egg yolks and soybeans, and betaine, which can be found in vegetables like beets and spinach.

Twelve: The Mediterranean diet improves the health of your skin.

Dieticians will tell you that what the Mediterranean diet can do for your health, it can do for your skin. The health of your skin is crucial to your overall well-being, since this is your body’s major defense against the outside world. Sticking to the Mediterranean diet can help you enjoy glowing, radiant skin.

This eating plan encourages tons of olive oil, which is full of vitamin E and antioxidants that work to hydrate and nourish your skin. Red wine, which is recommended in moderation, contains resveratrol, which can even inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria. And tomatoes, another Mediterranean staple, help protect skin cells – even helping prevent cancer caused by sun exposure.

Thirteen: The Mediterranean diet can relieve pain.

Staple foods of the Mediterranean diet, including magnesium-rich whole grains and high-fiber fruits and vegetables, can be included as a valuable part of your approach to pain management. Particularly for individuals who deal with chronic pain, this nutritional plan is a great way to reduce your dependence on pain-killers – which often come with a host of unpleasant side effects and could even lead to an addiction.

However, because this diet is so effective at reducing inflammation and relieving stress, you will see a big difference in how your body responds to pain. And thanks to the benefit of healthy weight loss, you may find that after a few months on the Mediterranean diet, your chronic pain could be a thing of the past.

To maximize the pain relieving benefit of this diet by boosting your intake of foods with magnesium, which is a mineral that has proven to fight muscle pain in several animal studies. This means eating more dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans and lentils, whole grains, and even dark chocolate.

Fourteen: The Mediterranean diet can improve fertility.

Through a study of nearly 500 women, researchers discovered that those who consumed greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, fish, and whole grains revealed increased fertility – even women who had previously struggled to become pregnant. While doctors will admit that more research needs to be done to see what kind of impact this diet has on a woman’s fertility, it is recommended that women who are hoping to conceive follow a diet similar to the Mediterranean eating plan.

Men can also benefit from consuming more antioxidant rice foods – mangoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots can help men develop healthier sperm, which will also help increase a couple’s chances of conceiving.

Fifteen: The Mediterranean diet increases your longevity.

Mortality statistics from 1960 to 1990 have offered “intriguing evidence” regarding the beneficial health of the people who live in the Mediterranean – and much of this research has pointed to their nutritious diet as the major factor behind this lifelong health. According to a study published in 2000, a diet that “adheres to the principles” of the traditional Mediterranean diet “is associated with longer survival.”

Not only that, but living your life according to Mediterranean tradition can make you considerably happier – thanks to your increased physical activity and strong, lasting social connections. Having something to live for tends to make people stick around longer, so it can be assumed that this kind of lifestyle lends itself well to increased longevity.

What should I keep in mind when starting this diet?

For those considering adopting the Mediterranean diet, congratulations! You’re well on your way to achieving a number of valuable health benefits and increased longevity – and you’ll be eating delicious, healthy meals with your friends and loved ones.

This is a great lifestyle for anyone to commit to, but there are a few things for you to keep in mind as you begin your journey to living the Mediterranean way. These tips will help you stay on track and quickly learn what it takes to maintain this healthy lifestyle.

- Pasta and bread are not your main course.

While this diet does allow you to continue consuming carbohydrates, keep in mind that Mediterranean people don’t indulge in massive bowls of bread and pasta the way Westerners do. Instead, these dishes are just supplementary parts of the meal. You won’t get the many benefits from this diet if you continue eating large helpings of carbs, which will cause your blood sugar to spike and lead to increased health concerns.

A typical Mediterranean plate will feature a heaping portion of vegetables and salad, a small portion of lean protein, a half-cup to one cup of pasta, and, occasionally, a piece of bread. Focus on real whole grains to benefit from the protein, fiber, and magnesium in these essential carbohydrates.

- It isn’t as expensive as you might think.

Often, people are discouraged from adopting this diet because of what they imagine will bring an added expense. However, when you’re eating more beans and legumes instead of pricier meats, and bulking up your meals with vegetables and whole grains, you’ll actually end up saving money – instead of spending your food budget on packaged foods or fast food.

With some solid meal planning, you’ll even be able to buy frequently used items in bulk – like olive oil, brown rice, and vegetables. Lots of these dry ingredients have a long shelf life, and extra vegetables can always be frozen and thawed out for later consumption. There are tons of ways to make this diet work for any budget, so don’t let things like an imagined expense keep you from making healthy changes.

- Ensure ongoing success by eliminating temptations.

This diet isn’t very restrictive, but you do need to stay away from unhealthy, processed foods if you want to achieve the full health benefits that the Mediterranean diet has to offer. This is a pretty general rule that can help you maintain any lifestyle change, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind whenever you’re embarking on a healthy diet plan.

Before stocking your kitchen with healthy, Mediterranean diet-approved foods, take time to go through your cupboards and clear out any processed junk that doesn’t add to your new lifestyle. These foods will only serve to derail you, so get rid of them by donating them to food banks or giving them to a shelter. Then, head to the grocery store with your shopping list and purchase the items that will support your healthy diet.

Also, if alcohol is a temptation for you, you should avoid including this aspect of the Mediterranean diet. While alcohol, in particular red wine, is encouraged in moderation, if limiting yourself is a problem, it’s better to keep it out of your diet entirely rather than risk frequent overindulgence – or even developing a problem.

- This is a lifestyle change.

While the food is a huge part of this diet, living your life in the Mediterranean style encompasses much more than just that. Don’t sit down for a meal in front of the television – sit with your family and friends to enjoy a leisurely dinner. This connection and relaxed dining experience is probably equally important for your health.

Not only will you enjoy the company of your loved ones, you’ll eat more slowly and savor each bite. This will help you learn to understand your body’s signals – so you’ll be more likely to eat when you’re hungry and recognize that you should stop eating when you’re full. You’ll understand how to eat until you’re satisfied, instead of until when your plate is clean.

Mediterranean people also benefit from plenty of exercise, so ensure that you’re getting enough physical activity each day. Park further away from your office or from the store, take the stairs whenever possible, and aim to spend at least twenty minutes a day doing exercise you enjoy.

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About The Author

Jacky Miller's picture

Jacky Miller is a Registered Dietician based in New Zealand. She specializes in chronic conditions and through diet and lifestyle changes helps her patients improve their health, and lead richer, more fulfilling lives. She writes regularly on health related topics for blogs including MindBodyGreen, Jen Reviews, and The Huffington Post. 

Follow Jacky on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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