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The Mediterranean diet – fact or fad?

Professor Tim Crowe takes a closer look at the diet that gives seafood, olive oil and (a little) red wine the tick of approval.

Mediterranean paella in black pan with rice, shrimps, mussels, squid and meat, bowl with olives and vintage cutlery. Seafood paella, traditional spanish dish. Paella on rustic black wooden table. Selective focus

Enjoying a diet with an abundance of fresh produce, fish and poultry with a touch of red wine is often said to be one of the healthiest lifestyles in the world. While it’s true that Mediterranean eating has long been linked to a bundle of positive benefits, exactly what are they?

Recently, a group of Italian researchers, lead by Dr M Dinu of the University of Florence, undertook a detailed review of the scientific landscape surrounding this way of eating. The review was published in May 2017 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

No stone remained unturned in this research. All counted, over 12 million people were part of the collection of studies put under the scientific microscope. And the range of health outcomes went from heart disease right through to cancer, with 37 different health conditions studied.

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Several of the health outcomes examined only had a few studies to inform them, which made definitive conclusions difficult.

Many of the research studies were observational studies, meaning they’re unable to prove a direct benefit – only an association. However, a big positive was that the diet was not linked to worsening the health of people.

In terms of definitive results, there was a lot of positive evidence suggesting the diet increases longevity and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and diabetes.

Through this study we can see that while the Mediterranean diet isn’t a silver-health-bullet, it shows the long term benefits of balanced and conscious eating. Dietary trends come and go, but there is a good reason why the traditional Mediterranean diet is consistently praised for its health benefits.

How to eat Mediterranean-style

All in all, there is no one best way to eat, but you can take some cues from the Mediterranean-style diet and adopt these to suit your own healthy lifestyle:

  • Let olive oil feature more in your cooking.
  • Have vegetables with every meal.
  • Try to include more legumes such as lentils, dried peas and beans into your diet.
  • Have fish twice a week and reduce the amount of red meat you eat.
  • Include yoghurt in your diet (Greek style of course) and smaller amounts of a variety of cheeses.
  • Switch to wholegrain breads and cereals.
  • Indulge in a little red wine.

Learn more about what makes the Mediterranean diet so good for you. 

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