What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

What Does the Research Say?

Some research has been done on the Mediterranean diet. Some of these studies have shown that this plan is more effective than a low-fat diet in bringing about long-term changes to cardiovascular risk factors, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In some of the clinical trials, the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease in people with a high risk by about 30 percent, compared to those who followed a low-fat diet.
In one study, the effects of three diets were examined. These diets included a low-carb diet, low-fat diet, and the Mediterranean diet. This study showed that the Mediterranean and low-carb diets may be effective alternatives to low-fat diets, as these two plans resulted in greater weight loss.
Also, the Mediterranean diet consists of lots of legumes, such as peas, chickpeas, lentils, and beans. Some research has shown that eating more legumes helps improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, as well as lowering the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
In addition, the Mediterranean diet consists of higher quantities of red wine, while Americans tend to drink more beer. Because red wine contains flavonoids (powerful antioxidants), it may be beneficial to heart health when used in moderation.

However, more research is needed to determine whether the diet itself or other lifestyle factors account for its benefits.

Are There Drawbacks?

While this way of eating seems to promote a number of healthy benefits, there may be some drawbacks. For one, the price tag. It can be more expensive to prepare unprocessed foods. Also, cooking fresh food takes a lot more time than many people may be accustomed to. This may not fit in well with someone who has a busy schedule or who travels a lot.
It's also important to remember that this isn't necessarily considered a weight loss program. While some people may lose some weight while following this way of eating, the Mediterranean diet is not designed for weight loss. It does not specify the exact amount of each dietary component that should be consumed or how much physical activity is needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Not everyone may enjoy the amount of fish that is used in the Mediterranean style of eating in place of meats. Also, the provision to drink wine with dinner may not fit in well with those who have certain medical conditions or who avoid alcohol for other reasons.
Also, the Mediterranean diet is rich in oil, which is a calorie-dense food. Over half of the fat calories in this plan come from monounsaturated fats like olive oil. While this type of fat doesn't necessarily raise cholesterol like saturated fat does, the high calorie content may be contributing to an increase in obesity rates in the Mediterranean countries.
A study done that included Americans following the Mediterranean diet showed that for five years their weight remained unchanged. In general, this type of diet would likely be appropriate for those people who are quite active and close to their ideal weight.
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