Rod Rhoades, Ph.D.

Are you looking to maintain your weight, eat healthy, and stay younger? You’re in luck. The Mediterranean diet has recently been ranked as one of the best programs to accomplish these goals. In our book, “Mind-Body-Spirit Connections: A Pathway to better Health,” we stated the Mediterranean diet was one of the better diets to stay healthy. However, since our publication new research has proven the diet provides new significant health benefits and prevents major diseases. The following is an update on the Mediterranean diet.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet evolved over many centuries and was inspired by the people who lived in countries that bordered the Mediterranean Sea. It included such countries as Greece, Spain, Southern Italy and France. The major characteristics of the diet include healthy nutrition, physical activity, and anti-stress attitudes. The Mediterranean diet is not a weight-loss diet, but rather it’s a lifetime approach to eating healthy that emphasizes eating proportionally higher amount of olive oil, legumes, whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, and moderate amounts of fish, dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), eggs and a moderate consumption of wine as well as low consumption of red meat.

The Mediterranean diet is ranked one the best overall diets in terms of ease to follow, healthy eating and maintaining your proportional weight that doesn’t endanger your health with unbalanced malnutrition. The Mediterranean diet is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods, and is low in sugar. It’s also free, with no supplements or processed food. Another advantage, the diet is easy to maintain because it doesn’t ban entire food groups. The only money you will spend is your own investment in adequate and fresh food, fruits and vegetables. The diet is also convenient. When you want to cook, “The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health” has excellent recipes and a complementary wine selection. The friendly tips will make meal planning and preparing easier. And if you eat out, bring someone along for the fellowship and to share the hefty entrees for the two of you.

The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle approach that involves physical activity and a social component (sharing and eating together). The physical activity doesn’t have to feel like exercise. Walking, a central part of the Mediterranean lifestyle is a good place to start. You can add other activities later (e.g. Silver Sneakers, Yoga, Jazzercise, etc.). Adults 50 and older are encouraged to get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity activity each week, which translates to walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Key components of the diet include:

  1. High consumption of virgin olive oil.
  2. High intake of vegetables and fruits and legumes.
  3. Use of non-refined carbohydrates (portions to be adjusted to physical activity).
  4. Consumption of fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, trout) three or four times a week
  5. Consumption of milk and derivatives, cheese and yogurt. Keep an eye on the saturated fats of the dairy products.
  6. Three or four eggs per week.
  7. Moderate consumption of meat and saturated fats (natural, not artificially hydrogenated!).
  8. One or two small glasses of wine a day, at the main meals.
  9. Nuts as snacks.
  10. On “special occasions “desserts.
  11. Sharing and eating together
  12. Daily physical activity

The Mediterranean diet is ranked one of the best for staying fit, smarter, and younger

It has been a big year for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Researchers have recently reported the results of one the largest randomized clinical trial that studied the effect of diet in the prevention several major chronic diseases. The dietary habits of more than 10,000 women in their 50’s and 60s who followed the Mediterranean diet were compared to how well they fared health-wise 15 years later. Middle aged women who followed the diet that included walking and sharing/eating together were 40 percent more likely to live past the age of 70. The healthiest women were those who limited their alcohol intake and who supplemented their diet with extra olive oil and nuts.  The report appeared in Annuals of Internal Medicine, November (2017).

Not only did the women that were on the Mediterranean diet stay younger, they also had less chronic diseases and less mental illness than those on the low fat diet. An earlier report that appeared in the JAMA Internal Medicine, July (2015) studied 447 cognitively healthy participants between the ages 55-80. They were divided into three groups and followed over a four year period. Two groups followed the Mediterranean diet, but one group supplemented their diet with extra olive oil and nuts. The third group simply followed a low fat-diet and served as the controls. The two groups on the Mediterranean diet experienced stronger overall memory function in comparison to the control group. In particular, the group which supplemented their diet with olive oil and nuts had better overall cognitive skills, which meant they can handle the difficulties and demands of modern society better.

The study on brain health was a follow-up from previous research published in 2013 that provided convincing evidence for improved cardiovascular health. The Mediterranean diet showed significant benefits in warding off cardiovascular disease and premature deaths (Estruch R, et al. “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 2013). The study was also a very large randomized clinical trial conducted in Spain in which 7,447 participants at high risk were followed for 4.8 years. The participants on the Mediterranean diet showed a significant 28-30 percent reduction in heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death compared to the standard low-fat diet. Patients on the Mediterranean diet also showed protection against type 2diabetes, elevated LDL, reduction in Alzheimer’s disease and increased longevity.

The take home message is clear the Mediterranean diet ranks as one of the best for staying healthy and preventing some of the world’s leading chronic diseases. It’s also obvious the diet is a much better option for lowering blood cholesterol and blood pressure than prescription drugs.

By Rod Rhoades, Ph.D.

Take control of your health by reading “Mind, Body, Spirit Connections: Your Pathway to Better Health” by Rod Rhoades, Ph.D. Click the book for purchase information.

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