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The Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet before: It has been the subject of many new reports because of the vast array of health benefits it offers. In case you didn’t fully understand what this nutrition plan entails, we wanted to offer a brief overview of what the Mediterranean diet involves as well as what it can do for you.

To begin with, the Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan focused on fresh foods. The key components of this diet include:

  • Eating mostly plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains
  • Limiting the consumption of red meat to no more than a few times per month
  • Consuming fish and poultry at least two times a week
  • Using healthy fats such as olive oil as a butter replacement
  • Swapping salt for herbs and spices when flavoring foods
  • Drinking red wine in moderation. This, of course, is optional.

These foods, paired with physical activity, can yield great health benefits. In fact, much research has been conducted, with findings that consistently point to the diet’s ability to reduce the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, an analysis of 1.5 million healthy adults showed that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease or cancer, as well as reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Let’s take an in depth look at some of the health advantages of the Mediterranean diet:

Alzheimer’s Disease – Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can potentially improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as overall blood vessel health. These factors may reduce a person’s risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Longer Life Expectancy – When a person follows the Mediterranean diet, there is a 20 percent reduced risk of death at any age. This statistic is based on the idea that this diet in particular reduces the development of heart disease and cancer.

Heart Health – The Mediterranean diet focuses heavily on the principle of eating fresh, whole foods. So, refined breads, processed foods and red meat are not included in the diet. These healthy changes have commonly been linked to preventing heart disease and strokes.

Strength – This diet is chock-full of nutrients that can lessen an elderly person’s risk of developing muscle weakness by about 70 percent.

Type 2 Diabetes – The Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber, which helps to slow digestion and prevent large swings in blood sugar, both of which are important when stabilizing sugar levels.

Parkinson’s Disease – Thanks to the high levels of antioxidants, this diet helps prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process known as oxidative stress. This in turn essentially halves the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

To learn more about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and if this eating plan could work for you, talk with your primary care physician.

If you’re ready to go Mediterranean, check back in the next few weeks to learn about some healthy food swaps to get you started!

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/diet-weight-loss/mediterranean-diet.htm

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