Better health and reduced risk of diseases through Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. Graphic courtesy Ale Zozos, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (Via The Mediterranean Dish)

Sandhya Govind
Auckland, January 29, 2023

The Mediterranean Diet is traditionally followed by people who live around the Mediterranean Sea, in Spain, Italy, Greece, Southern France, Croatia, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Morocco.

In the 1950s, the ‘Seven Countries Study’ spearheaded by American physiologist Ancel Keys was undertaken by researchers from various parts of the world to see how traditional diet and lifestyle practices in different cultures affected the cardiovascular health of people.

One important finding was that the dietary patterns of people living in Mediterranean countries and Japan contributed to their overall good health and low rates of coronary heart disease.

Since then, numerous in-depth studies on the Mediterranean diet have conclusively found that it helps fight inflammation and provides a wide range of health benefits.

These include reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, healthy weight management, and a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

Sandhya Govind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many studies have found that people following a Mediterranean-type diet are less likely to die prematurely of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia.

It has also been found that this diet offers protection against depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome as well as certain types of cancer.

Focus on Unprocessed Foods

The main focus of the Mediterranean diet is on whole and unprocessed foods with few or no additives. The main components of the diet include (a) Fruits and Vegetables (b) Beans and Lentils (c) Nuts and Seeds (d) Whole Grains (e) Olive Oil (f) Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (g) Moderate amounts of Dairy products, especially Cheese and Yogurt (h) Moderate amounts of Poultry instead of red meat.

Avoiding processed food, sweet foods, and foods containing unhealthy fats will also help.

In this and subsequent articles, I will be discussing some of the important aspects of the Mediterranean diet in detail – what foods to eat, what to avoid and ways in which you can incorporate them into your current diet.

This article focuses on how natural compounds in fruits and vegetables, important components of the Mediterranean diet, contribute to disease prevention and overall good health.

Focus on whole and unprocessed foods (La Vida Image)

Beneficial Vegetables

Vegetables that form an important part of the Mediterranean diet include spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, fennel, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, okra, peppers, radish, zucchini, sweet potatoes turnips and artichoke.

These vegetables are eaten both during meals and as a snack.

Fresh or frozen vegetables can be used, though it is not the best option.

If you choose canned vegetables, please ensure that there is no added salt.

Fruits that form part of the Mediterranean diet include apples, apricots, avocados. oranges, strawberries and other berries, cherries, oranges, pears, nectarines, olives, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, pomegranates, melons and peaches.

Fruits can be had for breakfast and added to oatmeal or plain yoghurt as a sweetener.

They can also be consumed as tasty and healthy snacks and desserts.

Fresh fruits are the healthiest option but if you decide to use canned fruit, make sure that no sugar has been added. It is always healthier to have whole fruit rather than juice, as fruits are high in fibre but not in the juice form.

Fruits vs Juices

Natural fruit juices, even unsweetened ones, have a much higher sugar content than whole fruits, which will have a negative impact on health.

Placing a tempting and colourful array of a variety of fresh, washed and ready-to-eat whole fruits in an easily visible and accessible place will make the entire family want to reach out to them when they feel like having a snack.

Choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables – the brighter they are, the more anti-oxidants they contain. Certain fruits and vegetables in the Mediterranean diet contain natural compounds that play a major role in promoting good health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For instance, red and pink-coloured fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and pink guava contain lycopene, a carotenoid that is responsible for their red/pink colour.  Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which protects the heart and helps reduce the risk of heart disease, helps reduce blood pressure, is anti-inflammatory, protects the eyes and also helps the body fight infections. It has also been found that lycopene offers protection against prostate and breast cancers.

Other carotenoids that have major health benefits include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin which are found in orange-coloured fruits. These compounds can be converted into vitamin A by the body.

The power of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a powerful natural antioxidant that is essential for the maintenance of the integrity of the skin and mucus membranes. This helps with immunity because when the mucous membranes are healthy, they can trap bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents, and prevent them from entering the bloodstream. It also plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyesight and can prevent night blindness and age-related decline in eyesight.

Two other important carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin. These are vital when it comes to supporting visual function and protecting the eyes from developing conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Lutein and zeaxanthin make their way to the macula of the eye (the centre of the retina), where they can block most of the harmful blue light emitted by the sun as well as modern digital devices. This prevents damage to the macula and protects eyesight.

It has also been found that green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens strongly contributed to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Image Courtesy: Indian Express

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is because of their potassium content, which helps lower high blood pressure; their high fibre content, which helps with cholesterol control; and their high folate content, which protects against heart disease and stroke.

Green leafy vegetables also contain a wide range of antioxidants that play a role in preventing plaque from forming in the artery walls, blocking blood flow and resulting in atherosclerosis.

All the fruits and vegetables that form part of the Mediterranean diet are also excellent sources of fibre, and various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Caution and Disclaimer

It is important to always consult with a health care professional before making any drastic changes to your diet or trying any new eating plan, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are already on medication or supplements, or are suffering from any medical condition. This is to make sure that the plan is appropriate for your specific condition and to also help you modify the diet where necessary. The information provided in this article is not to be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, especially if you have any concerns regarding your health.

Sandhya Govind is a qualified and trained Naturopath and runs ‘Sandhya’s Naturopathy Clinic,’ an integrated Natural Medicine facility, which helps people rediscover optimal health, radiance and vitality naturally. Email: sandhyanaturopathy@gmail.com; The above article should be read for general information purposes only and not taken as individual advice. Please always consult your GP or other authorised persons or agencies for personal advice. Indian Newslink and Sandhya Govind absolve themselves of all responsibility or liability in this connection.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this story

Related Stories

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement