Advantages of the Mediterranean diet

Advantages of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is a diet that originates in the Mediterranean basin in countries such as central and southern Italy, Greece, Spain, the coastal countries of North Africa and the neighboring Orient. The Mediterranean diet owes its fame to the balanced mix of nutrients and to the studies that link it to longevity, so much so that it has become an intangible asset protected by UNESCO. But what does science say?

Today it is quite obvious to believe that Italians follow the Mediterranean diet and that this fact is linked to the extraordinarily high longevity rates for our country. However, the data show that Italians are increasingly overweight and at risk precisely because they are abandoning the Mediterranean diet … or rather, the principles behind it.

Do you think that over the past 30 years, deaths attributable to obesity have increased 17 times. The metabolic consequences of being overweight are all the more serious the more overweight the subject lives. This tells us that fat children will almost certainly have serious consequences for their health in adulthood.

From an early age these children often have respiratory problems, joint pain, gastrointestinal difficulties and a negative impact on the psychological and temperamental sphere. Over the years all of this will greatly increase their risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and even cancer. In this sense, it is essential to sensitize parents and educate them to a new management of family nutrition and the lifestyle of their own and their children. Nonetheless, this is true for adults.

Another dramatic fact concerns a sedentary lifestyle: only one in two adults practices an acceptable form of physical activity. The deaths in Italy attributable to sedentary lifestyle, according to the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, reach 14.6% of the total. And this is not just an Italian problem. Indeed, the World Health Organization estimates that physical activity levels are decreasing all over the world, especially among young people. In Italy, only 1 in 10 children do physical activity adequately for their age and 1 in 2 children watches television or plays video games (including tablets and smartphones) for more than 3 hours a day.

But weren’t we the country of the Mediterranean diet?

Wasn’t our food culture by definition meant to be a protection from the excesses of an industrialized diet? Haven’t we always been told, including experts and dieticians, that a varied and balanced diet is all we need?

The picture is alas very different. First of all, the Mediterranean diet described as protective and healthy by many scientific studies is not what most Italians follow today . In fact, it is based on many seasonal vegetables and fruit, fresh fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil and whole carbohydrates. If anything, that’s how you eat in Greece and Turkey (changes are taking place in those countries too) but not in Italy. With us, only extra virgin olive oil remains good.

Then the Italians have progressively increased their intake of refined carbohydrates such as bread, pizza, pasta, rice, rarely taking into account the much healthier whole-grain versions. In addition, cheeses and milk derivatives are increasingly used, which end up replacing vegetables and legumes. And then the sweets, sugar in coffee or cappuccino, jam in the morning and many other small vices that when added together become a problem .

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The real advantage of the Mediterranean diet is that it is complete. And that it is not a diet as it is understood in a figurative sense, that is “a method to lose weight”. It is a diet that relies on the completeness of nutrients, coming from fresh, seasonal foods with a low glycemic index.

  • However, the Mediterranean diet has been proposed as a solution to a disorderly and consumerist regime, characterized by an excess of fats and sugars, precisely because it does not involve particular sacrifices (if not those related to the bad habit of eating junk food).Diets that are too rigid that deprive you of fundamental nutrients, blame the fats (which instead are part of the Mediterranean diet) and do not connect everything to the need to carry out physical activity , they are deeply wrong. Several studies have proclaimed the Mediterranean diet as the number one for losing weight, thanks – paradoxically – to the consumption of healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and those present in seeds such as walnuts.

    In a calorie restriction regime, therefore limiting the portions (mainly of whole carbohydrates), the Mediterranean diet shows all its virtues, so much so that – in fact – it is recommended as a “cure” to lower cholesterol and indent the values ​​a little outside the norm.

  • Stress conditions, metabolic diseases, depression, sleep difficulties and above all cardiovascular diseases, induced by obesity and poor physical activity are linked to eating disorders.
  • The Mediterranean diet would allow to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes thanks to the consumption of unsaturated fats, a controlled consumption of carbohydrates and proteins.
  • In women, adhering to the principles of the Mediterranean diet can lower the risk of stroke in women.
  • It may play a role in preventing diseases related to dementia and neurodegenerative disorders. However, the studies are not entirely conclusive.
  • People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis can see their pain relieved by consuming omega-3 fatty acids, found mainly in fish.
  • More studies reveal that the use of the Mediterranean diet lowers the incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
  • The balanced consumption of refined cereals, extra virgin olive oil, fruit and vegetables is at the basis of a lower incidence of tumors, particularly in women with regard to breast cancer (thanks to a reduced consumption of fats).

The rules for proper nutrition

I’ve been saying for some time that the rules for getting back to eating healthily are simple, so you don’t have any drawbacks. Mediterranean diet does not mean abusing sandwiches with cold cuts and cheeses, pizza, traditional Italian desserts and meats rich in fat. Indeed, you must:

  • Reduce the glycemic load by avoiding sugars and sweets and replacing refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta and rice) with wholemeal versions.
  • Reduce a little the intake of complex carbohydrates in favor of vegetables and proteins (fish caught, meat of good origin, eggs, legumes).
  • Reduce milk and dairy products.
  • Balance the consumption of red meats, limit cured meats.
  • Freely take extra virgin olive oil and add some omega-3s.
  • Take a multivitamin supplement.
  • Pay attention to the origin, processing and storage of food.

In order not to nullify the effects of proper nutrition, remember to do physical activity: it is good for the body, but also for the mind and maximizes the results obtainable with the diet, making you feel good, fitter and healthier.

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