The Success of the Mediterranean Diet
It’s well known now that the Mediterranean diet has many benefits, including the fact that countries where people live most of their lives on this diet tend to live longer.
You may not know that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent you developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, obesity and heart disease. These are the main reasons why the Mediterranean populations tend to have longer life spans.
Comparison – Western vs Mediterranean
A typical Western diet will be high in preservatives and animal fats. It will also be (typically) low in fruits and veg. This kind of diet leads to all these diseases, according to scientific research.
What does the term ‘Mediterranean diet’ actually mean? Contrary to what it might seem, it does not actually refer to eating only Greek or Italian food. That is just how the diet originated.
It is mostly based around getting as many vegetables and maximizing the variety of nutritional sources. Eat less red meat, and more fish and poultry. Try to limit or eliminate any processed foods with preservatives – fast foods and ready meals especially.
Other aspects of the Mediterranean diet to keep in mind:
- Do not add salt to your meals. There is enough within the food itself.
- Low amounts of dairy products, preferably low-fat
- Snack on nuts and fruits, as opposed to biscuits and crisps
- Drink water, tea and small amounts of red wine
The Role of Olive Oil
There are many types of oils out there, so it’s difficult to work out which ones are healthy for you.
Generally you will want to use mono-unsaturated olive or rapeseed oil. Avoid animal fat (butters or lards).
In fact, the unsaturated fats in olive oil combine with nitrite molecules in vegetables and nuts to form nitro fatty acids – which reduce blood pressure.
This is one of the secrets to the success of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil on salads and when used for cooking with vegetables causes this chemical reaction which reduces blood pressure and helps prevent a variety of diseases.
Professor Philip Eaton, from King’s College London and fellow researches from the University of California have led the research that pins down this ‘secret’ to the success of the Mediterranean diet.
The study used genetically engineered mice to determine the impact of nitro fatty acids on the body. There is an enzyme known as epoxide hydrolase that is blocked by nitro fatty acids, resulting in lower blood pressure. Humans have this same enzyme as found in mice, and so it is believed the same thing is happening to us when we combine the fats and nitrates in the Mediterranean diet.
Switching to the Mediterranean diet is a healthy lifestyle choice, and is easy and relatively cheap to do.