Health experts all over the world are calling a Mediterranean diet one of the world’s healthiest diets. Rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, this diet prioritizes fish over red meat and olive oil over oils higher in saturated fats, such as butter.
Is a Mediterranean Diet Actually Healthy?
The core of the diet calls for the consumption of what we call primarily, plant-based foods such as vegetables and fruits. Also included here are legumes, nuts and whole grains. Generally speaking, plant-based refers to a diet based primarily on foods derived from plants such as vegetables and fruits. The diet avoids eating animal products but also tries to avoid eating highly processed and refined foods such as foods with refined sugar and bleached flour. Plant-based foods are a core staple of a Mediterranean diet. Broccoli, kale, quinoa, almonds, olive oil, figs, avocados and tomatoes are all examples of plant-based foods that are encouraged on the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean Diet Prioritizes Olive Oil Instead of Vegetable Oil
Olive oil is widely known as a healthier alternative to butter. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which may benefit the heart. Monounsaturated fats are considered a healthy dietary fat and it is widely recommended that one can see health benefits from replacing saturated fats (butter, etc) with monounsaturated fats.
Olive oil is heart healthy. “Monounsaturated fat such as olive oil helps lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors,” says Donald Hensrud, MD, an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at Mayo Clinic and medical editor-in-chief of The Mayo Clinic Diet. “For instance, MUFAs have been found to lower your low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol levels when substituted for saturated or trans fats in your diet. And some research shows that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood-sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.” Source: Mayo Clinic Olive Oil Health Benefits It is also worth noting that olive oil is high in calories.
Skip the Salt and Use Herbs and Spices to Flavor Your Food
Some of the best herbs and spices to replace salt are cumin, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, oregano and garlic. Salt is necessary in our diet to keep a natural balance of sodium ions needed for the body to properly function. It’s not a good idea to entirely cut out salt. So a little bit of salt is healthy, but salt that comes from a preservative is not. One of the quickest ways to lower your blood pressure is to reduce the overall amount of salt that you consume.
So Now I can Drink Wine Every Night?
Not quite. A Mediterranean diet does cite health benefits from the moderate consumption of red wine. Red wine is rich in antioxidants, especially quercetin and resveratrol, which are flavonoids. Red wine can work to lower cholesterol and manage diabetes. It’s also widely thought by health professionals that the antioxidants in red wine can help to prevent coronary artery disease. Part of the benefit may be that the antioxidants increase your HDL , which helps to fight your LDL (bad cholesterol). However, it’s worth noting that more research is needed to understand if resveratrol actually lowers the risk of inflation and heart disease.
Less Red Meat; More Fish
The Mediterranean diet suggests that you eat less red meat and substitute the red meat with fish. Red meat is known to be high in saturated fat and saturated fats raise your blood cholesterol. Be sure to ignore everything you read from the meat industry, which endlessly contends that there is no link between red meat and diminished heart health. Make sure you that check the sources of the article and see who the company’s sponsors are.
A Mediterranean Diet is One Big Step Toward a Healthier Diet
No diet is perfect. You cannot drench an already unhealthy meal with olive oil, for example. But if you start out with a solid foundation – less red meat, more fruits and vegetables – you will see noticeable, long-term improvements in your diet and your health.