By Carla Oates
Whether you’ve tried it before, or not, you’ve likely heard of the Mediterranean diet. With its roots in Italy and Greece, and touted for being the best diet on the planet—there are now countless studies to back up its benefits.
But what is it exactly? Well, put simply the Mediterranean diet focuses on a plate centred on wholefoods—think abundant servings of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish, seafood and a whole lot of extra virgin olive oil. Unlike other diets, too, the Mediterranean diet is not focused on carbohydrate restriction or calorie counting and fasting— instead, it encourages you to enjoy an abundance of different food groups, whilst minimising your intake of red meat, sugars, sweets and processed foods. It’s also worth noting that a little red wine is also recommended—enjoyed socially as part of meals.
Less of a diet or meal plan and more of a lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet boasts a multitude of health benefits. Here are just six benefits of the Mediterranean diet you might like to know…
It’s Great For Your Gut Health
Given that at The Beauty Chef we’re all about the benefits of maintaining gut health for improved beauty, immunity and overall wellbeing—we love that the Mediterranean diet aligns so closely with our own food philosophy… especially when it comes to gut health! Rich in fibre thanks to the abundance of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains that dominate this way of eating, it’s no wonder it’s so great for your gut. Essentially acting as ‘food’ for your beneficial gut bacteria, fibre helps to keep your microbiome balanced, healthy and thriving. Furthermore, when fibre ferments in your large intestine, the byproducts are known as short-chain fatty acids which in themselves, boast a plethora of benefits helping to improve intestinal barrier function, as well as supporting immune and metabolic health.
It Improves Heart Health
One of the main reasons people choose to follow a Mediterranean diet is due to its positive effects on heart health. In one landmark PREDIMED study which followed over 7000 people, it was found that those who followed Mediterranean diet guidelines consuming an abundance of heart-healthy fats like olive oil, sardines and nuts, had a much lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular issue like a heart disease, heart attack and stroke. These types of fats help to boost your HDL (good cholesterol) and in turn lower your LDL (bad cholesterol). By keeping your arteries clear and your blood pressure stable you’re therefore less likely to experience cardiovascular disease. Similarly, the same study found that this type of diet reduced a woman’s chance of stroke.
It’s Good For Your Brain
It’s no surprise that given the level of healthy fats—like omega-3 fatty acids—included in the Mediterranean diet that it’s also great for our brain health and staving off cognitive decline. In fact, in one large study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, evidence suggests that adhering to a Mediterranean diet can improve cognitive function, help to slow cognitive decline and even offer a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Considering how beneficial the Mediterranean diet is for our gut health, too, it makes sense that eating in this manner can also improve our moods as the gut-brain axis shows us how closely linked they really are.
It Can Stave Off Diabetes
For those looking for a sustainable weight loss or weight maintenance solution—or for those suffering from blood sugar imbalances—the Mediterranean diet offers a practical healthy eating pattern. In fact, studies show that eating a balanced Mediterranean diet that includes fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and healthy fats can stabilise blood sugar levels and even protect against type 2 diabetes. Experts believe that it’s because of the large focus on fibre that has such a positive effect on metabolic health and blood sugar.
It Gives You Glowing Skin
Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fatty acids like omega-3s, the Mediterranean diet can also contribute to more glowing skin. With antioxidants from fruits and vegetables helping to fight the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, your skin is less prone to ageing symptoms like fine lines, wrinkles and dullness. Similarly, healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados improves skin hydration from the inside out.
It Can Help You Live Longer
In case you needed one more reason to give the Mediterranean diet a go, this is it: you will probably live longer. One study found that women who followed this way of eating during their 50s and 60s were 46 percent more likely to live past the age of 70 without experiencing chronic health issues. And to be honest, this makes sense as the Mediterranean diet is incredibly anti-inflammatory. Given that inflammation is largely recognised as being the root cause of most chronic diseases, the more anti-inflammatory foods we can consume daily, the better for our longevity and overall wellness.