Americans seem to be forever in search of the perfect diet, but despite the steady stream of new and gimmicky diet fads we’re constantly introduced to, we’d be wise to just turn our attention to a region of the world where people maintain their weight by eating nutritious, delicious, heart-healthy food without ever “dieting.”
The Mediterranean Diet, consistently ranked one of the best diets in the world, supports a healthy body, brain and even mood, and doesn’t require you to follow any crazy meal plans or buy obscure foods from the health food store.
So what exactly does the Mediterranean Diet consist of? Here’s a quick breakdown:
What you’ll want to eat a lot of: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, extra virgin olive oil
What you’ll eat in moderation: Fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt
What you’ll eat occasionally: Red meat, sweets
The focus here is on healthy fats as well as plant-based foods, avoiding anything processed, refined or unnaturally sweetened.
Plenty of studies back the health benefits of adopting the Mediterranean Diet, but if you aren’t convinced, here are six great reasons to give it a try.
1. Weight Loss
Keeping weight down is usually at least one of the driving factors behind choosing to follow a diet. Good news: Research from the American Journal of Medicine found that the Mediterranean Diet was the most effective for long-term weight loss when compared to a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet. Overall, people following the Mediterranean Diet lost between 9 and 22 pounds after a year.
2. Long Life
Want to live a long and healthy life? This diet will help. Many of the world’s populations with the longest life expectancies live along the Mediterranean coast, and research backs up the claim that it has to do with their diet. A study from the journal the BMJ found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet had cells that were different from those who ate diets that were heavier in red meats and dairy products. Those who ate Mediterranean foods had longer telomeres—the bits of DNA located at the end of chromosomes—which are linked to longer life.
3. Healthy Heart
Heart disease is a big killer—but guess what? The Mediterranean Diet can help lower your risk of heart disease, according to many studies. One study also found that for people who already have heart disease, eating a Mediterranean diet lowers their risk of mortality in subsequent years.
4. Reduced Risk Of Alzheimer’s
This diet can do a lot of great things for your body, but it also can work wonders on your mind. Studies show that people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline or cognitive impairment.
5. Better Mood
People who suffer from mild or moderate anxiety or depression might want to consider switching up their diet. A study from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that people who eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts and legumes are much happier than those who eat a typical American diet packed with desserts, soda and fast food.
6. Diabetes Prevention
Following a Mediterranean diet can help people with type 2 diabetes improve their blood sugar control. One study from the Annals of Internal Medicine followed people with diabetes for four years, and found that of those who consumed a Mediterranean diet, only 44 percent needed diabetes medication compared to 70 percent of those following a “low-fat” diet.