The One Diet that Beats them All
Mar. 20, 2023 Medical News Today
An increasing amount of scientific evidence now backs up this notion. Recent studies have linked reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and cancers with Mediterranean diets. Medical News Today looked at the evidence and spoke to experts about the science behind the benefits of this diet.
Over the years, many diets have been proposed for keeping healthy or reducing the risk of specific diseases, but few of them have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.
One exception, however, appears to be the Mediterranean diet.
Increasingly, studies are showing that there are significant health benefits for people who follow this eating plan. Not only has research shown that it reduces cardiovascular disease, but it may also benefit cognition, decrease diabetes risk, reduce the risk of some cancers, and alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is an umbrella term referring to diets based on the historic eating habits of people who live around the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the American Heart Association, which recommends this type of diet for cardiovascular health, its key features are:
- high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes
- low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fish, poultry, non-tropical vegetable oils, and nuts
- limited added sugars, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats.
The Harvard School of Public Health adds to these recommendations, emphasizing the importance of healthy fats — olive oil, avocados, nuts, and oily fish.
It advises that people should eat red meat only occasionally, but get their protein from fish or seafood at least twice a week and eat small quantities of poultry, eggs, and dairy most days.
Although water should be a person’s main drink, people may also drink one or two small glasses of red wine each day, as per the traditional Mediterranean diet.
Researchers add, however, that a healthy diet should also be paired up with some form of enjoyable physical activity every day.
Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician, and director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, noted:
“Research supports the benefits of adopting healthy lifestyle habits and indicates the critical importance this can play in shaping our future individual and collective health. […] Start with including lots of fresh vegetables — especially green leafy vegetables — and then enjoy fresh fruits— like berries — and other antioxidant-rich foods, along with fish, olive oil, and other foods rich in brain-healthy omega-3s.”