When you’re talking about healthy eating, the conversation inevitably turns to which diet is the best for overall health. While researchers continue to search for the answer to this question, we’re getting strong signals on what makes up the best diet.
The Mediterranean diet doesn’t specify how much fat, carbs, or calories you should consume in a given day. Instead, the diet relies on the wisdom of cultures that have existed for generations along the Mediterranean Sea.
What’s in the Mediterranean Diet?
The traditional food patterns in this area are rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil and red wine, as well as moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy and eggs are also characteristic of the Mediterranean. Sweets and red meat are enjoyed in moderation.
Why It Promotes Good Health
Researchers noticed that Italians and Greeks tend to have longer life spans and lower rates of chronic disease, so they set out to determine whether the Mediterranean diet truly reduced the risk for heart disease and other conditions.
One of the most notable findings came from the PREDIMED study, a five-year study of 7000-plus individuals in Spain in the late 2000s. In this study, folks who were at risk for heart disease were assigned to one of three diets: Mediterranean diet plus extra virgin olive oil (Med+OO), Mediterranean diet plus nuts (Med+Nuts), and a low-fat diet. They were followed by researchers to see how well they adhered to the diets and whether they developed heart disease.
Researchers found that folks who ate the Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil (Med+OO) or nuts (Med+Nuts) had a 30% and 28% lower risk of heart disease compared to folks who ate the low-fat diet. These results show the Mediterranean diet can be more effective than statins in lowering heart disease risk.
Our Favorite Mediterranean Recipes
Foodsmart can help you adopt a diet with Mediterranean patterns. Check out our collection of Mediterranean recipes, or try some of these hand-picked favorites: