what is in the mediterranean diet
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Different diets explained: The Mediterranean diet

Different diets explained: The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet, maybe the most unheard of diet that we have covered so far. As the name suggests it is based on foods that can be found in the Mediterranean region (Greece, France, and Spain).

Especially the foods are eaten around the 1940s and 50s. This is not a full fad diet since there is some evidence that it lowers risk of heart disease. 



General idea

The Mediterranean diet is a diet based on typical foods consumed in Mediterranean countries. It is known for a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil.

With a medium consumption of protein, it is not often the choice for athletes to follow this diet. Most of the protein that you will consume comes from fish and other seafood, poultry, cheese, and yogurt.

They also consume a lot of fresh fruit, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. When following this diet you will mostly stay away from eggs, red meat, sweets and processed meat.

Your total fat intake will be around 25-35% of your total calories. As mentioned before these fats mostly come from extra virgin olive oil and nuts. This diet is very low in saturated fat.

History 

The Mediterranean diet was first publicized in 1975 by Ancel Keys. Around this time it failed to gain popularity until the 1990s. The Mediterranean diet seems to contradict the common belief that dietary fat is unhealthy for you.

The people following this diet consume relatively high amounts of fat but have lower rates of cardiovascular diseases (1).

Around the 1960s the rates of chronic disease were the lowest around Greece and southern Italy. The adult life expectancy was also one of the highest while the medical services at that time were limited.

This was all the cause of one thing. They resisted the ‘new’ foods, by this I mean the highly processed foods and drinks. These foods that contain a lot of added sugars and saturated fats are responsible for the high rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes all over the world.



The Mediterranean diet pyramid

To make the diet easier to follow there exists a pyramid. When you look at this it becomes clear what you should consume and how often.

When you look at the lowest layer you see fruits, grains, vegetables, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, and seeds. These foods should be consumed on a daily bases.

When you go up a layer you see mostly protein sources in the form of fish and seafood, poultry and eggs. Sweets are also incorporated in this layer.

These foods should be consumed weekly. The last layer consists of one food red meat. This is something you should consume monthly if you want to stick to the diet.

When you look at the rest of the pyramid it makes clear that you should mostly drink water and wine in moderation. It is also recommended to have daily physical activity.

Health benefits

The Mediterranean diet is one you should not necessarily follow if your goal is weight loss. It is of course still possible to lose weight while following this diet.

But this diet is designed to improve your health. It is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods. It is not a fad diet since there is research that backs up the health claims it makes.

It is a diet that can help you protect yourself against many diseases like depression, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s.

There is a study out there by the Harvard School of Public Health that says: “When combined with physical activity and not smoking, our analyses suggest that over 80% of coronary heart disease, 70% of stroke, and 90% of type 2 diabetes can be avoided by healthy food choices that are consistent with the traditional Mediterranean diet.” (2)

Conclusion

This diet is amazing if you want to improve your health. There is plenty of research to back up all these claims of improved cardiovascular health and fighting other diseases.

It is not extremely restrictive and with the high consumption of fat and fiber, it will leave you very satisfied.

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