When we think of the countries with the highest life expectancies, we’re likely to think of places where medical services are very advanced. While this is very important, equally important is diet and lifestyle. When we take these factors into account, we can see extremely high life expectancies in places along the Mediterranean. So, what is it about these peoples’ diets that makes them live so long? Are they low in fats? High in fats? Perhaps they don’t eat as much? In this article, we’ll talk all about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, as well as what a Mediterranean diet might look like for those wanting to try it.
What Is a Mediterranean Diet?
The Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Croatians, Turks, and all other sorts of peoples live clustered around a large sea called the Mediterranean. In that area, certain hot-weather plants such as figs, dates, peppers, and nuts thrive.
In addition to having such a rich bounty springing up from the earth, Mediterranean peoples benefit from close proximity to the sea. This means that, throughout their lives, Mediterranean peoples tend to eat a lot of seafood.
All of these foods are extremely high in oils, vitamins, minerals, and all sorts of other nutrients that some of our most common foodstuffs sometimes lack. Not to mention, there’s a lot of variety in a Mediterranean diet, which means your body is more likely to get the nutrients it needs.
This is why Mediterranean peoples tend to be a little healthier than their non-Mediterranean counterparts. In short, they’re not picky eaters. Diet contributes to everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s so it’s never too late to start forming healthier habits.
What Are the Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet?
Around 1960, experts started noticing that people living around the Mediterranean Sea had some of the lowest instances of chronic disease in the world. While there could have been a lot of factors contributing to that, we’re reasonably sure that diet was a huge part of what gave them such great health.
And what are these purported health benefits?
Agility for the Elderly
As you age, you might notice your bones creaking more and more. Among the elderly, it’s common to find people who have trouble moving around, getting upstairs, or traversing outside. The Mediterranean diet may be able to help combat this fate.
As it turns out, older adults who consume a Mediterranean diet are 70% less at risk for signs of frailty such as aches and pains, stiffness, and immobility. People who consume this diet generally stay nimble late into their lives, which is nothing if not a benefit.
So, if you’re getting up there in age, and you’re starting to worry about mobility, it might be a good idea to start picking up a Mediterranean diet.
Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s
Of course, with old age, everyone’s biggest fear is that they might get Alzheimer’s or Dementia and moving into a memory care community with a loss of independence. Thinking about what it would be like to lose your faculties like that is hard, and as age advances, those worries might grow.
For those wanting to curb their risk of Alzheimer’s, it’s good to know that Mediterranean diets have been shown to promote blood vessel health. This may promote brain health which, in turn, may combat your risk of Alzheimer’s.
So, while modern medicine may not have found a cure for Alzheimer’s, it seems there may be some simple ways to combat Alzheimer’s in your daily life. It’s not a sure-fire cure- some people are just genetically predisposed to the disease- but it might act as a bit of a shield if you’re consistent.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
When you’re on a Mediterranean diet, you’re generally not consuming a whole lot of bread, red meat, or refined foods. When it comes to heart disease, these three are some of the big culprits, and avoiding them has been shown to benefit heart health.
Consuming a Mediterranean diet will reduce the amount of heart-harming foods you take in and increase those foods that promote blood vessel health. In the end, this may pay off with a reduced risk of heart disease.
What Does a Mediterranean Diet Look Like?
Below are some foods you might be eating if you decide to pick up a Mediterranean diet:
Lentils are a great, quick food with a very savory taste.
We all know them, and we all love them. Beans often serve as a source of protein for those on Mediterranean diets.
If you can afford it, seafood makes for a spectacular addition to a Mediterranean diet, and will hugely increase the amount of oils you take in.
- Whole Grain Bread
When you think of Italian food, you’re likely thinking of luscious white bread and pasta. That’s actually somewhat of a misconception. Mediterranean people tend to consume whole grain bread, high in fiber, and limit their intake of pasta.