Did you know that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lower your risk for disease while also adding up to six years to your life expectancy?
The Mediterranean Diet Pattern
A Mediterranean diet pattern is one rich in fiber coming from a variety of plant-based foods including whole grains, beans/legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It's also rich in heart-healthy fats from foods like olive oil, fish, nuts and avocados.
Conversely, the Mediterranean diet is low in saturated fats from meat, dairy, and coconut oil. It's also very low in added sugar and refined carbohydrates, which are common in processed food.
How a Mediterranean Diet can Help your Health
A recent year-long study involving over 600 seniors offers compelling evidence that older adults can modify the composition of their gut microbiome in a manner that may protect against frailty and chronic diseases that impair quality of life and increase risk of death—simply by adhering closely to a Mediterranean diet.
Researchers found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet demonstrated improvement in cognition and episodic memory after one year compared to those who did not follow the diet closely or at all.
Even among older adults, adopting and maintaining a Mediterranean dietary pattern can modify the gut microbiome in a manner that may promote not just more years to your life, but more life to your years!
A traditional Mediterranean diet consisting of large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil—coupled with physical activity—can reduce your risk of serious mental and physical health problems by:
- Preventing heart disease and strokes
- Keeping you agile
- Reducing the risk of Alzheimer's
- Halving the risk of Parkinson's Disease
- Increasing longevity
- Protecting against type 2 diabetes
Getting Started with a Mediterranean Diet
If the thought of changing your eating habits to a Mediterranean diet is a bit daunting, here are some suggestions to help get you started:
- Eat lots of vegetables—Try a fresh salad, soup, a simple plate of sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and crumbled feta cheese, or load your thin crust pizza with peppers and mushrooms instead of sausage and pepperoni
- Always eat breakfast—Even with a Mediterranean diet, it’s the most important meal of the day. For breakfast, eat fruit, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods. These are a great way to start your day and keep you pleasantly full for hours
- Eat seafood twice a week—Fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, sable-fish (black cod), and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish like mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for brain and heart health
- Cook a vegetarian meal—If it’s helpful, you can jump on the “Meatless Mondays” trend of foregoing meat on the first day of the week, or simply pick a day where you build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables
- Enjoy dairy products in moderation—Eat dairy products, such as natural (unprocessed) cheese, Greek or plain yogurt, occasionally
- Fresh fruit for dessert—Instead of ice cream, cake or other baked goods, opt for strawberries, fresh figs, grapes, or apples
- Use good fats—Extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, olives and avocados are great sources of healthy fats for your daily meals
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