You’ve probably come across the Mediterranean diet before – and instantly conjured up holiday brochure-style images of a tanned and well-rested you, enjoying long lunches on a beach somewhere, possibly Greece. What’s not to love?! But do you really know what the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet are? Read on to find out…
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Of course, a huge component of the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. Its health-giving properties are endless: it’s rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, both of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties (like ibuprofen!) and protect against a range of diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s.
There’s more to it than olive oil
Further benefits of the Mediterranean diet are found in the high proportion of fruit and vegetables it contains, including pulses (beans and chickpeas for example). This ensures a huge daily intake of vitamins and fibre, essential for keeping your gut healthy and avoiding constipation, hemorrhoids or worse, bowel cancer. Fish, nuts and seeds are all eaten several times a week, providing essential fatty oils for healthy brain and eye functioning, and contributing to the Mediterranean diet’s reputation for combating cognitive decline. Red meat and dairy fats are not consumed in high quantities – meaning that one of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet is that it is low in unhealthy saturated fats, which are linked to heart disease.
A way of life
It is common to have a small glass of red wine with a meal, again full of antioxidants and having anti-inflammatory properties. However, it is uncommon to drink without food or to excess – in this sense, it may be more helpful to think of eating in a Mediterranean style rather than merely following a Mediterranean diet.
It’s not just what you eat, it’s who you eat it with
Mealtimes are an important part of Mediterranean culture. Food is not something to be rushed, and even on a weekday many families find a way to sit down together and take a proper lunch break. You could even go so far as to say that one of the elements of the Mediterranean diet that makes it so good for your health is its social side! It has been proven that loneliness and lack of social contact can increase your risk of premature death by as much as 30% – all the more reason to make the effort to move away from your desk and arrange to eat with colleagues or friends.