Is dieting really that important when you’re trying to lose weight or live a healthy life? So basically, wherever you are at right now with respect to your health, you’ve got to realize that your decisions with regard to diet and exercise have been a major contributing factor. Consequently, in other to create a long lasting change in your health, you should be prepared to make lifelong changes to your lifestyle, and this includes your diet and exercise. It’s not compulsory to go on a particular diet in order to lose weight, although you would have to be conscious about the foods you eat and when you eat them. The Mediterranean diet is one that caught my attention due to it’s components and benefits. If you’re looking to embark on a healthy lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet is a great place to start!
What is a Mediterranean diet?
So what exactly is a Mediterranean diet? The dictionary defines it as a diet of a type traditional in Mediterranean countries, characterized especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein, and thought to confer health benefits. The diet is based on the dietary patterns Southern Italy, Greece, France and Spain from the 1940s and 1950s. During these periods, the rate of chronic disease of these countries were among the lowest in the world, and their life expectancy among the highest, although they had limited medical services. Apart from the food, the social nature of this diet and the daily physical activity involved contributes to its positive effect on mood and mental health.
What constitutes a Mediterranean diet?
This are some of the major components of the diet;
- Herbs and spices are used as flavorings in place of salt. This could account for some of the benefits of the diet since high intake of salt has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and dementia.
- Protein intake is limited, fish and eggs being the preferred source.
- Fruits, vegetables, wholes grains, legumes and nuts are predominant
- Red wine is encouraged in moderation
- Getting lots of exercise is encouraged
- Olive oil, canola oil and other healthy fats are used in the place of butter and saturated fats.
- Sharing meals with others.
What are the health benefits?
Well, basically, most of the healthy diets are characterized by fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oils. Little variations in the quantity of these foods taken can result in different benefits.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease;
The Mediterranean diet has been shown by research to reduce the risk of heart disease. This is mainly because the diet is comprised of lower amounts of the ‘bad’ cholesterol that normally builds up in the arteries and leads to some heart diseases. A systematic review done in 2011 found that the Mediterranean diet was more effective than a low-fat diet in bringing about long term changes to cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Improvement in Cognitive abilities;
The diet has also been associated with reduced occurrence of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer and Parkinson’s. According to a 2013 systematic review, greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is correlated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and slower cognitive decline. Another 2013 systematic review reached similar conclusions, and also found a negative association with the risk of progressing from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s, but acknowledged that only a small number of studies had been done on the topic.
Reduced risk of chronic diseases;
There is also some evidence that regular consumption of olive oil may lower the risk of neurodegeneration and several chronic diseases. In 2014, two meta-analysis found that the diet was associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
A meta analysis in 2008 found that strictly following the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 6%.
It fights Inflammation;
Fishes like Salmon, Mackerel and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The body naturally produces chemical compounds called cannabinoids (also found in marijauna) from omega-3 fatty acids. These cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory benefits.
It reduces pain;
An antioxidant called oleocanthal, found in olive oil works similarly to ibuprofen and aspirin in relieving pain.
There are some amazing recipes available for this diet. Check out this book ”The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook: 500 Vibrant, Kitchen-Tested Recipes for Living and Eating Well Every Day”. This is not only a cookbook, but also offers useful tips and explanations to why certain foods are chosen in the various recipes. If you’re looking for healthy, delicious and extensive variety of recipes, look no further.
You could still incorporate the mediterranean diet when eating out. 4 and 5 star hotels (like the Tang Palace hotel in Ghana) in particular have menus that span the constituents of the diet, and being a well informed client, you can make an intelligent choice and enjoy and awesome and healthy meal.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the oldest diets in existence and it’s benefits have been widely documented. Unlike some other diets, it is actually a tasty way to live a healthy life. So if you want to go on a diet to lose weight, still being able to enjoy tasty foods and lower your risks of chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, dementia, kidneys diseases and the like, the Mediterranean diet is an excellent choice.
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