If you’re looking to “Lose 50 pounds FAST” or “Get your Beach Body Ready in 2 Weeks” then head on over to BuzzFeed. If, however, you are interested in feeling healthy and being well, then perhaps you should stick around to learn some basic facts about a diet that has been around for thousands of years and is still recommended by physicians today.
The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle change that promotes lifelong wellness. Read on to learn about the origins of the diet, the science that backs it up, and how YOU can make this change in your life.
What's the big deal?
The Mediterranean diet is widely considered the most heart and brain healthy diet. This is not some “fad diet” or “hack.” Many reputable studies have been conducted on more than a million participants to examine the effectiveness of this diet. The data is clear; researchers have shown a 52% reduction in risk for developing Diabetes, and a 45% reduction in risk for heart attack when compared with a “low-fat diet” control group. In general, people who follow this diet tend to lead longer and healthier lives.
Brief history of the Mediterranean diet
As the name suggests, the diet traces its roots to the Mediterranean basin, the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Because of the geography and climate of this area, people here have enjoyed a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetable, lots of fresh seafood and plenty of olives.
The health benefits of this diet were discovered in the 1950s by American scientist Ancel Keys, who was the first to show a correlation between cardiovascular disease and lifestyle. He noticed that poor residents of small Italian towns were actually healthier than Italian immigrants living in New York City.
After much research, scientists were able to show that lifestyle, and in large part diet, was the most reliable predictor of cardiovascular health. Since these initial studies there have been many follow-ups that have verified the results and confirmed that the diet helps to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
Dan Buettner is the founder of Blue Zones, non-profit dedicated to promoting longevity and wellness in communities around the world. This tremendously valuable work grew out of research conducted by Buettner and others to identify “longevity hotspots.” Using demographic data, researchers identified five villages around the world in which residents enjoyed extreme longevity. The Mediterranean region boasts two of the five Blue Zones: Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy. To learn more about Blue Zones and the “Power 9” lifestyle habits that all the zones share, visit this page.
How can YOU follow this diet?
- First and foremost, you should eat primarily plant-based foods, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables every day
- Limit red meat to once per week, and instead get your protein from seafood, chicken, nuts, seeds, and beans
- Minimize butter and margarine, and substitute extra-virgin olive oil
- Skip the white bread, and opt for whole grains in the form of bread, pasta, rice (brown or red), oats, barley, and potatoes (red or purple)
- Ditch the salt, and learn how to use herbs and spices to flavor your food
Adopting the Mediterranean diet in earnest goes beyond the kitchen. The following lifestyle recommendations illustrate the fact that wellness is about much more than which cooking oil you use:
- Enjoy meals with friends in a social environment
- Stay active with plenty of exercise each day
- Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, if you are so inclined
Whether you’re an aspiring health nut or an average Joe who wants to be there to see his kid graduate, adopting the Mediterranean diet could be a huge step toward improving your health and increasing your longevity. I don’t know much in this world, but this I do: there is no hack, gimmick, or supplement that can take the place of consistent, positive lifestyle choices. Eat real food, stay active, and be kind to others.