14 June, 2020
The focus on plant foods and fresh produce means that the Mediterranean diet contains many essential nutrients and food groups, such as:
Healthful fats: The diet is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat. Health experts recommend limiting the intake of saturated fats to avoid high cholesterol, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Fiber: A diet that includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, alongside whole grains and legumes is high in fiber. Fiber promotes healthy digestion and appears to reduce the risk of bowel cancer and cardiovascular disease. It may also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Learn more here about the benefits of dietary fiber.
Vitamins and minerals: Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for the body’s healthy functioning. Also, lean meats provide vitamin B-12, which is scarce in an entirely plant-based diet. Click here to learn more about various nutrients, and why we need them. /articles/160774.php
Antioxidants: Antioxidants include vitamins, minerals, and other molecules that can help remove free radicalsTrusted Source from the body. Free radicals are toxic molecules that can build up as a byproduct of metabolism and other processes. They can cause damage that can lead to cancer and other diseases. Dietary antioxidants help protect the body by removing free radicals, and plant foods are good sources of antioxidants.
Low sugar: Fresh fruits provide natural sugar, but the diet is low in added sugar. Added sugar is high in calories and increases the risk of obesity and its complications. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend limiting intake of added sugar to 6 teaspoons per day for females and 9 teaspoons per day for males. This equates to 24 g and 36 g, respectively. Instead of sugary sweets, people will eat fruit on the Mediterranean diet.
Fruits contain sugar, but fruit is healthful in moderation. Find out here about some healthful choices of fruits.
However, the Mediterranean diet is an overall way of eating rather than a specific meal plan.
The Mediterranean diet is not a weight loss, but increasing fiber intake and cutting out red meat, animal fats, and processed food may lead to weight loss.
People who follow the diet may also have a lower risk of various diseases.
In the 1950s, Dr. Ancel Keys, an American scientist, found that people living in the poorer areas of southern Italy had a lower riskTrusted Source of heart disease and death than those in wealthier parts of New York. Dr. Keys attributed this to diet.
Since then, many studiesTrusted Source have indicated that following a Mediterranean diet can help the body maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
The AHA note that the overall pattern of the Mediterranean diet is similar to their own dietary recommendations.
The AHA point out that a high proportion of calories on the diet come from fat, which can increase the risk of obesity. However, they also note that this fat is mainly unsaturated, which makes it a more healthful option than that from the typical American diet.
The AHA also caution that science needs more research to identify whether the benefits of the diet stem from the food people eat or other aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Which foods are good for heart health? Find out here.
Protection from disease
The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods, and these are good sources of antioxidants.
A 2017 review and meta-analysisTrusted Source concluded that the Mediterranean diet might offer protection from various cancers, and especially colorectal cancer. The authors suggest that the reduction in risk may stem from the high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
In 2013, a study linked the antioxidants and fiber content in the Mediterranean diet with good mental and physical health.
Another group of researchers studied health markers for people who had a genetic feature that increased their risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
After a median of 4.8 years consuming a Mediterranean diet, tests showed the participants’ levels of blood glucose and fats had decreased. During this time, there was also a lower incidence of stroke.
The Mediterranean diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes and improve markers of diabetes in people who already have the condition, according to a 2014 studyTrusted Source.
Various other studies have concluded that following the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which often occur together.
The author of an article in Diabetes Spectrum notes that both the Mediterranean and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet appear to reduce the risk by around 20%.