Why is the Mediterranean Diet the Best Diet for Weight Loss in 2023?
In 2023, it’s the Mediterranean diet for the win! For the 6th year in a row, this style of eating has earned the best overall diet from trusted sources, professionals, and experts. Meals from this sunny side of the world also rank first for the best for healthy eating and plant-based diets.
So, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet, and why is it so popular?
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Interest in the Mediterranean diet began in the 1950s when it was noted that heart disease was not common in Mediterranean countries as it was in the United States.
Since then, numerous studies have confirmed that the diet helps prevent heart disease, as well as other health issues like strokes.
The Mediterranean diet (also called the Med diet for short) features simple, plant-based cooking with the majority of meals planned around fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, herbs, and spices. People typically eat three to nine servings of veggies and up to two servings of fruit a day on a Mediterranean diet.
Red meat takes backstage to the veggies in this diet and is usually only used to flavor a dish. Healthy, oily fish (packed with omega-3 fatty acids) is used often, while eggs, poultry, and dairy are only eaten in smaller portions than the traditional Western diet.
In the Med diet, there is a heavy emphasis on extra-virgin olive oil. Fats other than this, like butter, are rarely used (if at all), and sugar and refined foods are saved for special occasions.
Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat. This lowers your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (also known as the “bad” fat) levels. The nuts and seeds in the Med diet also contain monounsaturated fat.
Oily fish, like herring, sardines, salmon, albacore tuna, and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats, which help fight inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids also work to reduce blood clotting, decrease triglycerides, and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure.
The Mediterranean Lifestyle
What makes the Med diet stand out from the crowd is that it’s more than just a way of eating, it’s a lifestyle. It is based on the traditional eating habits of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, Italy, and Morocco.
The basic cornerstones of a Mediterranean meal include social interactions and exercise. Lifestyle changes that are part of the diet include eating with family and friends, socializing over meals, practicing mindful eating, as well as movement and play.
You can take the lessons of the Mediterranean eating pattern, and apply it to any cuisine in any country. It all starts with good company and getting up off your feet. The next time you throw a barbeque, put out a volleyball net or play a game of frisbee. The more social interaction and exercise you get, the more you’ll be living just like those in the Mediterranean!
Stats on the Mediterranean Diet
One of the main reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so popular is because of what all the studies show.
Here are some statistics on the Mediterranean diet:
- Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of heart disease compared to those who just followed a simple low-fat diet.
- A review of studies found that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer.
- Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 33% reduction in the risk of stroke.
- Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found older adults who followed a Med diet had better cognitive function than those who followed a low-fat diet.
- A study in the journal BMC Medicine demonstrated that people who followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of depression compared to those who followed a diet high in processed foods.
Overall, it has been demonstrated time and again that the Med diet is a healthy and effective way of eating, with numerous health benefits.
How Does the Mediterranean Diet Work?
Since this diet wasn’t developed ad hoc, and is based on a region of people and style of eating, there is no structured way to follow the Mediterranean diet. It is something that has evolved over centuries of time and is popular because of its well-rounded approach to eating. This diet is not known for being restrictive. Quite the opposite, actually. Many people find it a joy to follow this way of eating, as it involves more social interaction and movement. Simply put, it makes meals more exciting.
It should also be worth noting that two of the five so-called “Blue Zones” (areas where people live longer and have lower rates of disease) are located in Mediterranean cities (Ikaria in Greece and Sardinia in Italy).
Potential Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is famous for its touted health advantages. The diet has been associated with numerous health benefits, including lowering the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Certain types of cancer
The Med diet has also been linked to better brain functions. Fresh foods in the diet pack an array of disease-fighting antioxidants, and people who fill their bellies with this type of food, have a lower risk of disease. Yet, scientists are not sure if it’s the antioxidants, or other compounds (like healthy eating habits) that are responsible for these advantages.
Here’s a closer look at the potential health benefits of the Med diet:
The Mediterranean diet is famous for its heart health and decreasing the risk of heart disease. That’s because it lowers cholesterol levels and reduces the mortality from cardiovascular conditions.
Reduced Risk of Cancer
The Med diet is also linked with a lower likelihood of certain cancers, like breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and certain head and neck cancers.
Lower Risk of Depression
The Med diet can lead to a sunnier mood and a lower risk of depression. Eating a bunch of fruits and vegetables not only affects your physical health, it elevates your mental health as well.
Research shows that people who eat more of this in their diet (like dark leafy greens and berries) have fewer symptoms of depression and more life satisfaction.
Fewer Osteoarthritis Issues
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits, the Med diet may also lower the risk of bone fractures, weight gain (which can put added pressure on the joints), and disability in general.
Less Neurodegenerative Diseases
The Med diet is associated with better measures of general cognitive function. Over time, it has also been shown to slow cognitive decline and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Emerging evidence shows that the Med diet offers protective effects for those at risk of type 2 diabetes.
For one thing, the Mediterranean diet improves blood sugar control for those who already have the disease. It is a good diet for managing diabetes, especially since those who have it are at increased odds of cardiovascular disease.
Mediterranean Diet FAQ
Common Questions and Answers
What foods should you avoid on the Mediterranean diet?
Although no food is banned from the Med diet, it encourages limiting foods like red meat and sugar. Also, consume eggs, cheese, poultry, and yogurt in moderation. The Med diet also avoids all highly processed foods.
Can I lose weight on the Mediterranean diet?
The answer is: absolutely! The Med diet is a healthy and effective way to lose weight. Studies show that people who follow this diet can lose weight and improve their overall health.
Can I drink alcohol on the Mediterranean diet?
Yes, and people often do. The moderate consumption of red wine can be a common part of the Mediterranean diet. However, excessive alcohol consumption is not recommended for any type of diet or health.
Is the Mediterranean diet expensive?
The Med diet is affordable, as it emphasizes whole, fresh foods and simple presentations. Buying in-season produce and shopping at local markets will also help you keep costs down.
Is the Mediterranean diet vegetarian or vegan?
This is often a misconception. The Med diet is not strictly vegetarian or vegan. However, it emphasizes plant-based foods and limits animal products. Vegetarians and vegans can easily adapt the Med diet to meet their dietary needs.
Wrapping it Up
The Mediterranean diet has been popular for centuries because not only does it encourage healthy eating, but it works to eliminate stress (through socialization) and promotes exercise. It’s an all-encompassing healthy way to live and is the perfect diet for those who hate restrictions.