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Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Olive oil and nuts

You probably knew, but olive oil is a big part of the Mediterranean diet.

Interested in improving your nutrition and overall health? Great! Here are some popular choices. You’ve probably heard of most of them by now:

  • South Beach
  • Atkins
  • Weight Watchers
  • Jenny Craig
  • Scarsdale
  • Pritikin
  • Keto
  • Paleo

And the list goes on. Which one is best?

While many of these nutritional plans have been around for a couple decades or less, there’s a proven eating style with healthful benefits that has been around for centuries.

It’s the customary eating habits popular in the northern Mediterranean area. You’ll find it in Greece, Portugal, southern Italy, southern France and Spain. No wonder it’s called the “Mediterranean Diet.”

Interest in the Mediterranean diet began over 50 years ago. That’s when it was observed that coronary heart disease caused fewer deaths in Mediterranean countries. Subsequent studies determined that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

This finding is significant since cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in North America.

What’s so special about the Mediterranean Diet? Studies suggest that those who follow this diet enjoy these health benefits:

  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Decreased risk of certain types of cancer

As much as 40% of the daily caloric intake of this diet comes from eating fats; in particular olive oil. Olive oil a monounsaturated fat that is a major source of antioxidants and like many other “healthy” fats, is not associated with an increase in cholesterol levels.

This plant-centric diet is considered healthier than the heavily meat-loaded diet that so many North Americans grew up with. That may be because it relies heavily on the daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Fish, a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, is consumed several times a week and cheese (usually unpasteurized) is also in abundance. Red meat is generally limited to only once or twice a month.

A related factor may be exercise levels. Many in the Mediterranean region do not rely on cars as their basic means to travel.  They are more apt to walk or bike, getting much more regular, recurrent movement than the average North American.

The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and apparently healthy style of eating. Many who adopt it enjoy multiple health benefits.

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