As functional medicine becomes more mainstream, I’m so happy to hear of more health programs being developed around prescribing therapeutic diets. Doctors’ offices are writing prescriptions for CSA memberships and many chronic illnesses are being addressed at their root - inflammatory diets. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic disease like hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes, you may have had the Mediterranean diet recommended to you. The Mediterranean diet has so many health benefits from both a quantitative perspective (shifting macros to a more anti-inflammatory ratio) as well as a qualitative (encompassing things like healthy social life, balanced workload, and appropriate exercise). Though there are many variations of the traditional diets from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, many concepts remain fairly standard across the board: focus on whole, fresh ingredients, prioritize fruits and vegetables, include healthy fats, and stay hydrated. But what are the specific health benefits of the Mediterranean diet?
1. Cardiovascular Disease:
According to Harvard, the Mediterranean diet is highly effective at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. A study with a sample size of almost 26,000 women showed that those who followed this type of diet had 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the course of 12 years due to a reduction in inflammation, blood sugar, and body mass index.
2. Reduce the Risk of Stroke:
Consuming a higher percentage (more like 40% of daily calories instead of the 20% recommended by the Institute of Medicine) of your daily calories from healthy sources of fat has shown a reduction in death from stroke by 30%.
3. Cognitive Health:
Telomeres are specific parts of DNA that are linked to age-related diseases and cognitive decline. These telomere structures shorten with age, leading to an increased risk of developing chronic illness and death. Antioxidants have been found to combat the oxidative stress that is responsible for shortening these telomers as well as preserve their length. The Mediterranean diet, while rich in antioxidants from fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. has been shown to be highly effective in preserving telomere length and thus overall cognitive health. Additionally, a Nurses’ Health Study followed over 10,000 women ages 57-61 and found that the women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet were 46% more likely to age healthfully.
Eating more unsaturated fat and fewer carbohydrates, as is recommended on the Mediterranean diet, has been shown to reduce overall blood glucose levels while also improving insulin resistance and secretion.
5. Weight Loss:
The Mediterranean diet has been linked to sustainable weight loss through methods that are healthy, long-lasting, and not sourced through deprivation. Personally, as a studier of holistic medicine, I can’t think of too many things that are worse overall on your body than a deprivation diet. Supporting your relationships with food and your body is one of the most important things you could do for your quality of life.
6. Cancer Prevention:
The Mediterranean diet has been found to help prevent and fight cancer in nearly every way: it’s rich in antioxidants, protects DNA from oxidative damage, prevents cell mutation, lowers levels of inflammation, and stalls tumor growth. Additionally, extra-virgin olive oil has been linked to decreasing the risk of colon and bowel cancers.
Overall, the Mediterranean diet is such a fantastic model to follow due to not only its specific health benefits but also to its healthy relationship with food as well as other all-encompassing health markers like social and emotional health. This is why we’re so excited to join Chef Devon Hammer on Saturday, October 23rd for the second installment of the Native Plate Series. Chef Devon will be sharing some of his favorite recipes inspired by the Mediterranean. So even though it’s fall here in the Old Dominion, we can still sip on some wine and pretend that we’re amongst the soft warm breezes of the Mediterranean. Check out our Event page here for more info as well as to purchase your tickets today!