Mediterranean Diet Reduces Disease Risk
Is there one diet that can reduce your risk of disease?
Our diet changes our brain and general health and reduce risk of certain age related neurologic disease. Our culture loves fad diets and many are always on the look out for the diet that cures all. Just look on the internet or your local bookstore and you will find hundreds of diets proving instant weight loss, health or well-being. Some say you can eat what ever you want and still lose weight if you take this pill. Some require you to purge or eat only a few special foods. The internet promotes super-foods then distill these foods into a pill for you to buy. But these fad diets do not promote health and are certainly not a healthy long-term nutritional lifestyle that combats disease.
Fad diets come and go but the diets based on sound nutrition, balance and food quality are here to stay. The Mediterranean diet is a diet that is here to stay.- Before we review this diet, lets first take a step back and review how it differs from the average American diet.
American diets are:
- Focused on fast and processed foods. The more processed or altered foods are, the greater the loss in nutritional value. Fruit roll ups made with ‘real fruit’ will never replace fresh fruit for the nutritional and health benefits it contains.
- Too high in processed foods that contain trans fats, high levels of polyunsaturated or hydrogenated oils, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup.
- Too little 'true foods' in produced, cultivated and eaten in their natural form
- Too much saturated fat from meat, butter and dairy products.
- Processed foods high in salt.
- Too many additives and artificial sweeteners.
- Too few fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts.
- Too little good fats such as omega 3s (salmon, halibut, sardines, krill, walnuts, flax) and olive oil.
- Too little variety (especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables) limiting the vitamins and nutrients we get.
Beware the marketing hype. Our society’s solution is to produce, market and sell a new brand of processed foods designed to make us healthier. Don’t fall into the marketing traps listed below. Read the labels.
- ‘Low in Fat’. This label leads the buyer to belief the product must be better for them if it now has less or no fat. Not necessarily true. More processed foods such as low-fat products tend to substitute fat with sugar, corn syrup or salt to enhance flavor.
- ‘Made with whole wheat or whole grains’. Creative marketing leads the buyer to believe that their whole grain or whole wheat product is better. For example, your whole grain cracker or slice of bread is produced with wheat that is finely processed and in doing so looses the benefit of ‘whole’ grains.
- ‘Less sugar or sugar-free”. Again not necessarily better for you. Your reduced sugar muffin may have more fat to keep it yummy.
Why focus on the Mediterranean diet?
Observations that men living in Greece and other areas along the Mediterranean coast had less heart disease. People living in this region were also noted to live vibrantly to a much older age and lived longer. Daily exercise and a common diet were key factors in these health benefits.
The Mediterranean diet is improves many health problems
- Obesity even when compared to low-fat diets.
Glucose control and diabetes type 2
Heart disease and survival from heart disease
Cancer risk and survival
Prolong healthy life span
- Risk of depression
The link between the foods we eat, brain health, dementia, stroke and Parkinson’s health is getting stronger
- Less brain damage from stroke in people whose diet more closely resembles this diet
- Less cognitive problems or progression to Alzheimer’s disease
- Reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease
What makes this diet healthy?
Its not what you call the diet that is important. The DASH diet, Nordic diet are similar diets that share similar health benefits. These diets share the following nutritional chemistry
- Foods are high in anti-oxidants from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts
- Foods have anti-inflammatory properties (inflammation caused by saturated fats and processed sugar diets
- Foods are high and fiber, vitamins and minerals that must work together for cell health
- Foods do not have artificial chemicals or sweeteners, or preservatives
- Food selection tends to combine healthy properties, ie lentils are a protein source that is high in fiber, antioxidants, varied vitamins and minerals and low in calories a combination not found in a T-bone steak
So many diseases- One diet
The fact that the Mediterranean diet helps so many disease is import. Your bodies different organs and cellular physiology work in unison and it stand to reason that their optimal nutritional needs will be similar. So, if one diet proves helpful for so many disease, the true benefits are likely to be real and not the latest fad or fashion.
Author: Monique Giroux, MD