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Tucking Into The Mediterranean Diet

More than sixteen countries border the Mediterranean Sea. There are many varied diets both between and within the various regions of these countries. Although there is no specific Mediterranean diet per se, the traditional diets from the people living in countries like Southern Italy and the Greek islands have inspired a lot of clinical studies over the last decade. This is mainly because doctors noticed that natives of these countries have high life expectancy rates and a marked low incidence of diseases which are prevalent in other countries.

What’s common about foods in the Mediterranean

Despite their variety, the Mediterranean diets do have some common characteristics:

  • High consumption of fresh vegetables, fruits, cereals, bread, beans, potatoes and seeds, and nuts
  • Olive oil is an excellent antioxidant as well as a predominant source of monounsaturated fat
  • Poultry, fish and dairy products are consumed in small or moderate amounts
  • Eggs are eaten no more than four times a week
  • Wine is consumed in moderate amounts
  • Small amounts of red meat are consumed

Eating is the way to wellness

Despite the fact that up to 40% of the total daily calories in the Mediterranean diet are from fat, the risk of cardiovascular disease is dramatically reduced. This is because olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid and does not raise cholesterol as much as saturated fats do. Olive oil is also a major source of antioxidants. Fish meals a few times per week also benefit health because fish increases the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, and the body cannot make them, so omega-3s must be acquired from food. Eating red meat infrequently and in small amounts also seems to also improve health by lowering cholesterol.

More whole foods: fruits and veggies

The high content of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Mediterranean diet protects against heart disease and cancer because fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Tomatoes are a very popular ingredient in the Mediterranean diet not only in salads but also in sauces. Tomatoes are also a major source of antioxidants, particularly lycopene.

The anti-aging Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet can impact the aging process in a number of ways. The diet may help protect the brain during the aging process and reduce the risk of dementia. Another benefit is that the Mediterranean diet helps reduce an inflammatory biomarker known as C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein influences the inflammation associated with aging. Furthermore, because the Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants, eating such foods may also slow the effects of aging on cells, tissues, and organs.