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8 Smart Reasons to Follow a Mediterranean Diet

It has long been known that a diet consisting of higher levels of vegetables, fruit, and fish is healthier for you than one which consists of cheeseburgers, fries, and an extra large soda. You do not have to move to Greece to be healthier, however — you can adopt a Mediterranean diet right here at home.

A Mediterranean diet typically includes a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish and olive oil, as well as low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, meat, and poultry. It emphasizes consuming foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, while consuming a low intake of saturated fats, meat, and dairy products. The good news for occasional wine drinkers (like myself) is that Mediterranean diets include mild to moderate amounts of alcohol with meals.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the Mediterranean diet, as well as the benefits of the individual components of the diet, are life-changing. The combination of omega-3 fatty acids from fish combined with unsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and nuts, as well as the flavonoids and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, have tremendous health benefits for those who follow it.  In fact, we may just be hearing more and more doctors recommending the diet to patients for the prevention of health issues.

Here are 8 reasons why you may just want to try a Mediterranean diet for yourself:

  • 8 Solid Reasons to Try a Mediterranean Diet 1 of 9
    8 Indisputable Reasons to Follow a Mediterranean Diet
  • Better brain power 2 of 9
    Boost brain power

    People who eat a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have brain infarcts, which are small areas of dead tissue that are linked to problems with thinking and memory. Researchers followed the diets of over 700 New Yorkers over a period of six years. Those who strictly followed a Mediterranean diet were 36% less likely to have areas of brain damage, and people who were moderately following a Mediterranean diet were 21% less likely to have brain damage than those who did not follow the diet.

    Additional studies confirm that elderly individuals who had a diet that included higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereal, and fish and was low in red meat and poultry, and who were physically active, had an associated lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.

    Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Exeter, BMJ Group, American Academy of Neurology (1)American Academy of Neurology (2)

  • Stronger bones 3 of 9
    Stronger bones

    Sticking to a Mediterranean diet has a significant impact in women's bone health. Researchers carried out a study to understand the effects of different meals on bone mass. They found that adhering to a dietary pattern with features of the Mediterranean diet, including a diet that is rich in fish and olive oil and low in red meat, is has a positive effect that could help to preserve bone mass throughout a person's entire adult life.

    Source: National Institutes of Health

  • Be happier 4 of 9
    Be happier

    Following a Mediterranean diet may ward off depression. The prevalence of mental disorders is lower in the Meditteranean than in other countries, and it may have to do more with diet than the gorgeous scenery and weather. A study of over 10,000 participants from Spain showed that those who closely follow a Mediterranean diet have over 30% less risk of depression than who do not follow a Mediterranean diet.

    So don't worry, eat happy!

    Source: University of Navarra

  • Sleep better 5 of 9
    Sleep better

    Know someone with sleep apnea? This may help. Research has found that eating a Mediterranean diet combined with physical activity can help to improve some of the symptoms of sleep apnea, including a reduced number of disturbances during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, which usually accounts for approximately 25% of total sleep during the night.

    Sleep apnea causes frequent pauses of breathing to occur during sleep, disrupting the normal sleeping pattern (and often the person sleeping next to them too). Many of those with sleep apnea wear a mask during the night which gives them continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and keeps the airway open during sleep. Approximately 2 to 4% of the adult population has sleep apnea, and his percentage increases up to 20 to 40% among those with obesity.

    Source: European Respiratory Journal

  • Have lower blood sugar levels 6 of 9
    Lower blood sugar

    Because the Mediterranean-style diet is generally low on the glycemic index, it may offer some protection against getting Type-2 diabetes. Researchers followed over 22,000 people over 11 years, and found that people who strictly followed a Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to develop diabetes than people who did not follow the diet. Even those who moderately followed the diet were less likely to develop diabetes.

    A separate study showed that a gene variant strongly associated with development of Type-2 diabetes interacts with a Mediterranean diet in a way that prevents the occurrence of a stroke.

    Source: Tufts University, Diabetologia

  • Have a healthier heart 7 of 9
    Have a healthier heart

    Want to keep your heart healthy? Metabolic syndrome is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease, characterized by large waist circumference, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose levels. A Mediterranean diet helps to normalize levels on each of the components of metabolic syndrome, which is great news considering that each one is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease in its own right.  One study found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or tree nuts reduces the risk of cardiovascular death, a myocardial infarction, or a stroke by up to 30%.

    Source: University of Barcelona, American Academy of Cardiology, European Respiratory Journal

  • Fight off illnesses 8 of 9
    Fight off illnesses

    Sticking to a full Mediterranean diet provides substantial protection against major chronic diseases, including cancer and Parkinson's disease. A team of researchers looked at 12 international studies, which collectively included more than 1.5 million participants. The researchers found that people who stuck strictly to a Mediterranean diet had significant improvements in their health, including a 13% reduction in incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, and a 6% reduction in cancer. (They also had a 9% drop in overall mortality and a 9% drop in mortality from cardiovascular disease.)

    Not too shabby, right?

    Source: British Medical Journal

  • Live longer 9 of 9
    Live longer

    Who doesn't want to live longer? According to a large-scale study measuring thousands of older adults over a 40-year period, people who eat a Mediterranean diet have a 20% higher chance of living longer.

    Bring on the Greek salad!

    Source: University of Gothenberg

 

Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.

Jessica also recently wrote:

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Read more from Jessica at FoundtheMarbles.com.  And be sure to follow her on Twitter too!

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