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What is the Mediterranean Diet all about and what are its benefits and drawbacks? The Mediterranean Diet can basically be attributed to the recent recognition that of those living in Europe, those in the Mediterranean live longest on average. Why might this be, you ask? Well, researchers believe that the secret lies in their diet. While the Mediterranean Diet is not a concrete diet plan like South Beach or Atkins, and the diets of those countries within the region differ by certain degrees, there are still certain traits that have been found to be universal.
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Food habits in the Mediterranean
First off, in the Mediterranean, there is a large consumption of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts, and bread. Secondly, olive oil is commonly used for cooking and dressings. Thirdly, there is a moderate consumption of fish but little red meat. Fourth, there is a low to moderate amount of full fat cheeses and yogurt that is consumed. And contrary to popular belief, there is only a moderate consumption of wine that is usually only had during meals. Also, there is a strong reliance on seasonal produce. And lastly, those living in the Mediterranean live an active lifestyle which is vital for complete state of fitness.
So, what are some of the benefits to this Mediterranean lifestyle? In a recent 4 year study, the diets of over 22,000 Greeks were studied and the closer they adhered to a traditional Greek diet, the less likely they were to die from either heart disease or cancer. Overall, the traditionalists found themselves 25% less likely to die during the 4 year study period, which suggests that adherents of traditional diet die later rather then sooner. In comparison to Americans, Greeks are 20% less likely to die from coronary artery disease and are 33% less likely to develop cancer. Is there a solid reasoning behind this increased protection from heart disease and cancer? Yes, and the reason lies in their consumption of olive oil and oily fish such as sardines, which contain, in the case of olive oil, monounsaturated fats while the fish contains polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Both can help protect your heart. Furthermore, the large consumption of fruits and vegetables like tomatoes will further reinforce your body against cancer and heart disease by providing plenty of valuable antioxidants.
So, are there any downsides to this Mediterranean diet? All in all, no, but if you find yourself active, eat a good bit more protein throughout the day. They recommend eating fish, eggs and poultry a few times a week. I’d have some good protein with every meal just to make sure all of the bases are covered. One of the only issues that people will be confronted with is it requires frequent cooking, and if you are too busy or lazy to do that then you will only be gleaning some of its benefits. Also, this “diet” is hard to criticize since it is not as restrictive and regimented as Atkins and others are. To me, that only creates shortcomings which translates into nutritional imbalances. So, apply the protein-enhanced Mediterranean principle to the concept of eating 5 small meals a day and you’ll truly be living a life fit for a Greek.