Last updated on October 9th, 2021 at 09:22 am

Have you ever wondered why people in some countries enjoy better health more than others!

The answer to this question is a lifestyle! Yes, eating habits play an essential role in health. If you follow healthy eating habits, you will enjoy better health and avoid the risk of many dangerous diseases.

Today, we will talk about one of the healthiest diets that are encouraged by doctors and nutritionists due to its various health benefits. So, let’s know more about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Heart health

The Mediterranean diet is known for being a heart-healthy diet and that is because of many reasons. The major reason is that the primary source of fat in it is extra-virgin olive oil, which is known for containing important components that are essential for heart health. The antioxidants, which are found in it, protect the red blood cells from damage, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

According to the authors of one 2018 review, FDA and the European Food Safety Authority recommend consuming 20 grams of extra-virgin olive oil daily in order to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Additionally to olive oil, fatty fish and nuts are rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which play an important role in lowering triglyceride levels in the blood, which leads to reducing the risk of heart disease.

Moreover, the Mediterranean diet encourages eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, which have powerful antioxidants and dietary fiber, which all help to prevent atherosclerosis. Also, whole grains which are recommended in the Med diet are healthier than refined grains due to containing fiber and healthy nutrients, which are essential for heart health.

All these components contribute to reducing the rates of coronary heart disease, strokes, and total cardiovascular disease.

Type-2 diabetes risk

There are many factors that can lead to the development of type-2 diabetes including dietary habits, environmental influences, lifestyle, in addition to being inactive and obese. The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best diets for being beneficial in keeping type-2 diabetes under control.

According to a study [1]Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes: Prevention and Treatment (nih.gov), which has included 215 obese people with type-2 diabetes who do not use medications, the first group has followed the Med diet and the other one has followed a low-fat diet.

The results have shown that the Mediterranean diet group has experienced better glycemic control.

Olive oil Health BenefitsThe extra-virgin olive oil, which is the main component in the Med diet, helps reduce glucose levels and insulin sensitivity, which means better control of blood sugar. Additionally, the Med diet encourages eating whole grains instead of refined grains that contain fiber, which helps stabilize blood sugar.

Moreover, the incorporation of vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats in the Med diet, helps to keep blood sugar stable.

Blood pressure

The extra-virgin olive oil is high in polyphenols, which has a major impact on systolic blood pressure. In the Mediterranean diet, oily fish is highly recommended as a source of lean protein. They contain polyunsaturated fats, which are related to helping lower blood pressure.

Furthermore, the Med diet encourages eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium such as spinach, avocados, bananas, and others, which helps lower blood pressure. Reducing the sodium intake in the Med diet helps effectively to lower blood pressure as well.[2]Sodium Intake and Hypertension (nih.gov) 

Cognitive decline

Some studies have shown that following the Med diet has a beneficial effect on supporting mental health and slowing cognitive decline. The wide range of healthy foods that are included in the Mediterranean diet, improve memory, cognition, and contribute to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The daily intake of extra-virgin olive oil has been associated with preventing the development of dementia and improving cognitive function. Additionally, consuming oily fish helps improve attention and reduces socioemotional problems. 

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and swelling. Studies show that the regular consumption of extra-virgin olive oil, which is the primary source of fat in the Med diet, is beneficial for reducing inflammation and preventing the severity of the disease.[3](PDF) The Secrets of the Mediterranean Diet. Does [Only] Olive Oil Matter? (researchgate.net) 

In general the antioxidants and the polyunsaturated fats that are in various kinds of foods especially fish, seeds, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and others, which are all included in the Mediterranean diet, help reduce inflammation and pain.

Furthermore, studies show that eating the healthy foods that are included in the Med diet, which contain healthy nutrients that support gut health and fight the bacteria, which cause inflammation. 

May protect against certain types of cancers

A healthy diet has a positive impact on preventing cancer in general. The Mediterranean diet has shown its effective role in lowering the risk of many diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.

Benefits of olive oilThe extra-virgin olive oil contains phenolic compounds and tocopherols that may help prevent cancer. The Mediterranean diet encourages avoiding eating processed foods and saturated fats, which are linked to obesity and the risk of at least 11 different cancers.

There is evidence that the Med diet may help lower the risk of colorectal cancer and breast cancer amongst postmenopausal women. Finally, according to studies, the Mediterranean diet may help reduce overall cancer rates. [4]Mediterranean diet and cancer: epidemiological evidence and mechanism of selected aspects | BMC Surgery | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)

Weight loss

The Mediterranean diet is not considered a specific weight loss diet but it’s a lifestyle diet that helps in changing the bad eating habits and adopting healthy ones.

In general, the Mediterranean diet does not include processed foods that are loaded with empty calories, which lead to weight gain. The regular consumption of olive oil, which is one of the main foods that are included in the Med diet, improves gut health that leads to weight loss.

Furthermore, the Med diet is rich in foods that contain high content of fiber such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, which plays an important role in digestion and suppressing appetite.

To sum up, The consumption of healthy real foods that are full of vitamins and nutrients and avoiding unhealthy foods means weight loss. But, if you seek a quick weight loss, you should go for calorie restriction and regular exercise.

Don’t forget the most important thing, which is drinking plenty of water.

Fatty liver

Studies show that following a healthy diet with exercise can help lose weight and reduce the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by more than half.

Studies have shown that there are many conditions that can increase the risk of fatty liver diseases, such as high triglycerides, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.[5]Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Risk of Future Cardiovascular Events Among Type 2 Diabetic Patients | Diabetes (diabetesjournals.org) The Mediterranean diet has an effective impact on reducing the risk of all these conditions, which means it can help reduce the risk of fatty liver as a result.

Research has shown that eating a regularly healthy plant-based diet full of vegetables and fruits helps reduce the fat in the liver and helps it to work effectively.

Depression and anxiety

Healthy eating habits lead to a good mood. The carotenoids, which are found in vegetables such as kale and spinach and also in eggs play an important role in boosting gut health, which is linked to improving mood.

According to a study was published in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry, the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on reducing depression and anxiety. The extra-virgin olive oil, which is considered the primary source of healthy fat in the Med diet, contains linoleic acid, which is known for its great potential to reduce anxiety and depression.

In addition, omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds may help in treating some forms of depression. 

Living longer

Many studies have linked the Mediterranean diet with longer life due to its health benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other health benefits, which are all considered causes for death.

Additionally, a study in Europe (HALE) approved that following the Med diet helps decrease the factors of death by more than 50%. Eating healthy fats instead of unhealthy fats, avoiding processed foods, eating fruits and vegetables that are high in healthy nutrients, and drinking alcohol in moderation are all help enjoy a healthy life and live longer.

Parkinson’s disease

The Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants that play an important role in preventing cell damage. If we talk about one of the most important components in the Med diet, we will find that according to studies, olive oil contains Tyrosol, which is a compound that reduces neurodegenerative diseases.

In general, the Mediterranean diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have an essential effect on reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Cholesterol

Following the Mediterranean diet is a natural safe way to lower cholesterol levels, which is considered one of the common factors that leads to various diseases.

According to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, the Med diet is more effective in decreasing cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol levels. As we know that the Med diet encourages eating whole grains, which are approved to be linked to lowering LDL.

Additionally, extra-virgin olive oil, oily fish, and nuts are all rich in healthy fats and oxidants that have a beneficial role in controlling cholesterol levels. 

For women

The Mediterranean diet is beneficial especially for women in reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis since it’s high in calcium that is found in a wide range of foods that are included in it, including beans, some vegetables, Greek yogurt, and others. [6]How a Mediterranean diet could reduce bone loss in osteoporosis — ScienceDaily

Since the Med diet contain foods that are high in iron such as spinach, almonds, lentils, and others, it protects women against iron deficiency

The healthy fats in the Med diet that come from the extra-virgin olive oil, oily fish, nuts, and seeds help promote a healthy pregnancy, skin health, and hair health. In addition, they help you to feel full, which means weight loss.

Last words

After reading the article, I hope you have benefited from the information that I provided about one of the most famous diets around the world, which is the Mediterranean diet.

It is worth mentioning that to enjoy good health and live longer, you must improve your eating habits, sleep well, and maintain regular exercise. And of course, don’t forget to keep hydrated. 

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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