Juicing, fasting, low-carb, high-protein – the list goes on and on for the ‘healthiest’ diet or lifestyle out there. But one way of eating seems to consistently come out on top when it comes to its benefits – the Mediterranean diet.
Out of 41 popular diets examined by U.S. News in 2019, it was found that the Mediterranean style of eating was by far the healthiest. It ranked as the best overall diet, best diet for diabetes, best diet for heart health, best plant-based diet, and not to mention? The easiest diet to follow! Plus, another major perk is that no food is really off-limits. So, what is it and is there a catch? We’ve got all the deets.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is exactly how it sounds – it’s eating the foods that would typically be found in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This means it’s a diet containing lots of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and plant oils. Processed foods are a no-no, and dairy, meat, and wine can be consumed in moderation making the diet super doable and not totally restrictive.
Now, rather than calling this a ‘diet,’ it really should be called a lifestyle. This style of eating puts an emphasis on eating lots of plant-based foods, eating fish or seafood at least twice a week, and making sure you’re consuming real, whole foods.
Basically, whole plant foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats get a thumbs up. Saturated fats, added sugar, and processed foods are a no, no.
In addition to the Mediterranean diet having certain guidelines or ‘rules’ as to what should be eaten, there are also other elements to the lifestyle that have nothing to do with the food itself. For one, physical activity is important. Not only should you be feeding and fueling your body with nutrient-dense, real foods, but you should also be moving your body and keeping it in shape. Hate working out? Turn exercise into something fun like taking walks with your family or going for a hike. Better yet, find a way to make working out fun with our FitOn app where you can try out tons of different fun classes taught by celebrity trainers right from the comfort of your own home. Try out Barre, HIIT, or Pilates. Who knows, it may just be what you need to get excited about moving your body.
Another important factor in the Mediterranean diet? Pleasure. You probably never thought ‘diet’ and ‘pleasure’ could be used in the same sentence, but it’s a vital aspect of this type of eating style. Just as in the Mediterranean culture, eating Mediterranean-style foods should be enjoyed in the company of others with people that you love. It forces you to slow down and enjoy the food instead of just piling it in.
So, family-style meals are always encouraged and it’s an excuse to polish your cooking skills while catching up with friends. Smiling, laughing, and connecting do so many wonderful things for our brains and bodies.
This diet just keeps getting better, right?
The health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet
- Eating a diet that follows the Mediterranean-style guidelines, could help lower your body mass index. Studies are still being performed, but it’s likely because the common foods associated with the diet are high in antioxidants which have tons of anti-inflammatory properties. Bye bye, bloating! Plus, these types of foods are high in fiber which is like a superhero for your digestive tract.
- According to the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet were far less likely to have a stroke, heart attack, or other cardiovascular-related events as compared to those who only adhered to a low-fat diet. By incorporating olive oil and nuts into their eating routine, the participants had a 30% drop in their risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Multiple studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet had an association with retaining cognitive function, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s, and improving memory.
Ready to try it? Here’s what to keep in mind
The Mediterranean diet is one of the simplest, easiest-to-follow, and one of the most delicious ‘diets’ out there. This style of eating promotes consuming foods in a healthy way without limiting what you could or should eat. With that being said, however, there are some things to keep in mind.
- Losing weight while on the Mediterranean diet is certainly a possibility, but just like anything, everything in moderation. Since this diet promotes eating things like nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils, it’s easy to forget that these ingredients are high in calories, despite being dense in nutrition. So, make sure you’re always watching your portion sizes.
- One of the biggest downsides to eating Mediterranean-style is that it can be expensive. If you want to adopt this type of eating but don’t have the budget, there are a couple of ways to cut down on food costs. Try buying canned fish instead of fresh (you’d be surprised by all the recipes out there!) Buy grains and beans in bulk. Find veggies in the frozen aisle. There are way more healthy options out there than we realize.
- Choosing to eat this way might require just a bit more time and thought when it comes to your daily eating habits. Make a plan and stick to it by creating food prep lists, recipe ideas for the week, and finding restaurants nearby that cater to your needs.
When it really comes down to it, the Mediterranean diet is pretty awesome. Why? Well, because it really isn’t a diet at all. You’re just eating real foods. Since processed food and fast food are so readily available to us at such a low cost, we often forget that it’s cheap for a reason. The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet prove that Mother Nature gave us everything we need to eat and live a happy and healthy life.