The Mediterranean-style diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
In general, this diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods. New research has revealed numerous health benefits for following this regime.
Our experts are here to explain how and why a Mediterranean-style diet may be the key to good health…
Why we need more vegetables
“It’s important to eat vegetables, especially cruciferous colourful varieties as they are full of life enhancing micronutrients, antioxidants and fibre. They’re essential for keeping our bodies and minds healthy.
Vitamins A and C are water-soluble immune boosting, skin healing and eye protecting vitamins. Fibre keeps the gut healthy as it encourages bowel regularity and lowers cholesterol. It also nourishes our protective gut flora or Microbiome and allows for slower assimilation of nutrients, increasing feelings of fullness and provides a steady supply of energy.
Other notable minerals are potassium and magnesium, which help maintain energy and are cardio protective. Together these micronutrients, antioxidants and fibre improve overall health and help protect us from terminal illnesses like diabetes and heart disease,“ explains Nutritionist Alix Woods.
Wholegrain over white
Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar (www.marilynglenville.com) suggests, “Swap to wholegrain alternatives that release energy slowly.
The carbohydrates in wholemeal bread and grains are broken down slowly over several hours and so do not give any sudden flooding of sugars into the bloodstream. Also, this gradual release helps you to feel fuller for longer, suppressing your appetite and stopping you craving sweet foods because you are not on the blood sugar rollercoaster.”
Top Tip: To boost both your vegetable and wholegrain intake this New Year, try the Winter Wonton & Greens soup from itsu (£3.99, www.itsu.com). This low calorie meal, launching for a limited time, is packed with brown rice and seasonal greens; the perfect combination of whole grains and vegetables.
Research has revealed cardiovascular benefits
In the UK, 1 in 12 women suffer from coronary heart disease where the arteries become narrower and harder because of a build-up in plaque. Following a Mediterranean-style diet may help to reduce these numbers, as new research suggests that following this diet could reduce the risk of a stroke in women over 40.
“The best thing you can do for your heart is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It is especially important to increase your intake of oily fish, nuts, seeds and oils – because they are good sources of EFAs or essential fatty acids known to prevent heart disease. Phytoestrogens are another food group that has this effect on LDL and HDL, and has the added benefit of helping to lower triglycerides (your stored fat),” explains Marilyn.
Top Tip: High levels of homocysteine (a common amino acid in your blood that you mostly get from eating meat) have been shown to increase the risk of damaging the lining of the arteries and this can contribute to heart disease.
It is important to have good levels of the three B vitamins, vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid in order to keep homocysteine in the normal range. To help lower homocysteine try the new NHP Cardio Support (£25.78, www.naturalhealthpractice.com).
Linked to lower obesity
This healthy diet pattern has been associated with lower obesity and cardiometabolic risk in adults, according to new research.[ii] “Unhealthy food choices – eating little fruit and vegetables and consuming excess, sugary, fatty, convenient foods can raise your risk of type 2 diabetes.
This is mostly because; a high glycaemic diet increases the risk of weight gain, which is linked with type 2 diabetes. In fact, obesity accounts for 80% to 85% of the overall risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” explains Dr. Sarah Brewer working in association with CuraLin Diabetes Supplement (www.curalife.co).
Top Tip: If you have a sweet tooth and struggle to control your sugar cravings, the Natures Plus KetoLiving Sugar Control Capsules (£29.95, www.naturesplus.co.uk) are here to help. The capsules support normal glucose levels, helping to eliminate those dreaded sugar cravings.