In 2022, the US News & World Report ranked the Mediterranean way of eating the number one on its 40 Best Diets List. There were many reasons for this decision, including heart and brain health, cancer and diabetes prevention. A Mediterranean lifestyle is not about calorie counting or denial. Here, we explain how a Mediterranean lifestyle can help you to thrive.
What is a Mediterranean Lifestyle?
This way of eating consists of lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Followers also feast on nuts and fish, with generous use of olive oil. Dairy is eaten in moderation, along with red meat. Processed foods are avoided as much as possible. Foods like white bread, white rice and cookies are rarely consumed.
Does it help to prevent heart disease?
A clinical trial called the PREDIMED study followed 7,000 women and men in Spain who had type 2 diabetes or were at high risk of cardiovascular disease for approximately five years.
Participants who ate a calorie-unrestricted Mediterranean lifestyle with plenty of olive oil or nuts showed around a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease at the end of the trial than the control group.
Can it reduce a woman’s risk of stroke?
The PREDIMED study showed that a Mediterranean lifestyle can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. A cohort study found that in addition, the closer a woman follows a Mediterranean diet, the lower the risk of her suffering a stroke.
For women who were at a high risk of stroke, a Mediterranean lifestyle reduced the risk by twenty per cent.
Protection from cognitive decline
Claire Sexton, director of programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association states - “There is growing evidence that what we eat can impact our brains as we age.”
Dr. Sexton believes that a Mediterranean lifestyle may reduce the risk of dementia. “Generally speaking, it is best to eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fats and high in vegetables and fruits. Such a diet may have vascular and anti-inflammatory properties.”
Of course, nutrition is just one way of helping to fight cognitive decline. Dr Sexton says - “It is important to also realise that, for maximal benefits, a healthy diet would likely need to be combined with other healthy lifestyle practices to help protect an aging brain. Adopting one lifestyle factor, like a healthier diet, may reduce the risk of cognitive decline — but the more healthy lifestyle behaviours you can incorporate, the more cognitive benefit you’re likely to see.”
Take time to shop for fresh, nutrient rich foods – avoiding highly processed foods and ready meals! Enjoy the experience of cooking and eating with family and friends. However, when alone, take just as much time to prepare and devour your food.
If you are frequently on-the-go during the day, carry a delicious salad in a cool bag to avoid relying on petrol station snacks and pastries.
Further reading: The Big Mediterranean Meal Prep UK Cookbook(Full Colour Pictures): 1200 Days Of Foolproof And Delicious Recipes With Weekly Diet Plans To Enjoy A Beautiful And Healthy Lifestyle by Laverne S Spicer
To buy: Mediterranean Meal Cookbook
Our Favourite Simple Mediterranean Recipe:
Mediterranean Rainbow Bowl
Full of colour and flavour, this is a delicious option for lunch or dinner.
You will need:
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (1 ½ pounds), diced into half-inch cubes
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup couscous
- 1/2 English cucumber, sliced into half moons
- Mixed salad greens, for serving
To begin, preheat the oven to 425°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine the sweet potatoes, red pepper and red onion in a large bowl. Add olive oil and 1 ½ teaspoons of salt. Next, toss with cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, and cinnamon.
Divide the vegetables between the two baking sheets, then spread in an even layer. Roast for 20 minutes before removing from the oven and stirring. Roast for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Heat your couscous according to the product producer’s instructions.
To serve, place your roasted vegetables over the couscous and salad greens in medium sized bowls. Add piles of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.