7 facts about the Mediterranean diet that could help you live longer
From reducing chronic pain to preventing some types of cancer, learn the many health benefits associated with this diet.
It's no mystery that the Mediterranean diet is one of the best ways to eat. It's rich in all the things you already know are good for you but that you probably don't get enough of in traditional Western diets: fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean proteins like fish, olive oil, red wine. We here at From The Grapevine have been singing its praises for years. So we thought it was only right that we would pull together lots of what we know about this lifestyle to ensure you're as informed as possible about what you're eating (or what you're not). That said, here are seven intriguing facts about the Mediterranean diet that could go a very long way toward a life of good health.
1. It decreases your chances of developing chronic pain.
Adhering to a Mediterranean diet decreases the chances that you will develop chronic pain. This is especially true if you're overweight. That’s according to research done at the Ohio State University, where lead researcher Charles Emery studied the well-established connection between body weight and chronic pain. His research underscores the benefits of anti-inflammatory foods including fish, nuts and beans as a key to preventing or reducing that pain.
2. It can ward off heart disease.
In a 2015 study conducted by researchers at Harokopio University in Athens, Greece it was reported that people who followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease over a 10-year period compared to those who did not adhere to the diet. That mirrors the geographical patterns of disease in the Mediterranean region; after all, it's widely known that citizens of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea – Greece, Italy, Israel and France, for example – have longer life spans and fewer incidences of cancers and heart-related ailments. They also tend to eat less red meat, sugar and saturated fat and focus on produce, nuts, fish and olive oil, with the occasional (moderate) helping of red wine.
3. It significantly cuts your risk of uterine cancer.
A joint Swiss-Italian study conducted between 1983 and 2006 analyzed the diets of 5,000 women to see how closely they stuck to the Mediterranean diet and whether they went on to develop uterine cancer. The resulting report, which involved women in several regions of Italy and in the Swiss Canton of Vaud, shows that women who stick closely to a Mediterranean diet can cut their chances of developing uterine cancer by more than half.
4. It also reduces your risk of breast cancer – by 68 percent – if supplemented with olive oil.
A study out of the University of Navarra in Spain – which included 4,000 women between 60 and 80 years old – found that women who followed this diet, supplemented with olive oil each day, reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by 68 percent compared to women who followed a standard low-fat diet.
"We know that things like olive oil have lots of antioxidants and can really reduce your risk [of breast cancer], so I think that this new study is pretty important, and I think it shows us that there's even more benefit from this healthy diet," Dr. Kevin Campbell, a cardiologist based in Raleigh, North Carolina, told CBS News.
5. It can boost brain power.
An intensive, four-year study out of Barcelona discovered that the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with a small increase in the daily consumption of nuts and olive oil, can help protect the brain from the damaging effects of aging. This is a potentially crucial weapon in the difficult fight against cognitive decline, dementia and devastating diseases such as Alzheimer's.
6. It can slow down aging.
Keeping fit physically by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise isn't just about what we see in the mirror, but also what's happening behind the curtain. Researchers at Columbia University in New York studying elderly patients discovered that those who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts, fruits and little meat and dairy, had higher brain volumes than those who did not. This study follows up on the previous brain power report from Barcelona.
7. It's the easiest diet to follow, so you can focus on other matters that enrich your life.
Just a couple of months ago, the Mediterranean diet earned top billing for Easiest Diet to Follow in U.S. News' Best Diets ratings. It also ranked No. 2 in Best Diets Overall, right behind the DASH diet, which aims to prevent high blood pressure by touting fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, while shunning calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat.
Why so easy? The fact that it's not actually a diet, but more of a lifestyle pattern, is the key, experts said. You can tailor this diet to fit your needs, your budget, your family, your job, your food taste (that one's for you, picky eaters!) and your level of physical activity. You can still eat out (sharing is highly recommended), you're not forbidden from certain food groups, and you're not likely to feel hungry all the time as with other diets. Simply put, this is a diet you don't have to stress over. And less stress undoubtedly means more time to live a happy life.
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Related Topics: Healthy eating