According to the Mayo Clinic , recent research involving over 1.5 million adults showed that following the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease and is associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality. The research also also revealed an association between the Mediterranean diet and a reduced cancer occurrence and cancer mortality as well as a reduced risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
Another reason the Mediterranean way of eating receives little hype is because it just a balanced, smart way of eating. It's hard to market sensible balance eating. Traditionally, the Mediterranean diet includes daily intake of fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. Greeks typically eat very little red meat, but average nine servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Those that eat a Mediterranean diet typically have lower LDL levels (the bad cholesterol).
Nuts are also a big part of the Mediterranean diet. Nuts are high in fat, but most of that fat is not saturated and is healthy for the body. Of course here in the U.S. we have portion control issues. So, adding nuts to your daily diet doesn't mean eating half a jar of Planters. A serving size of almonds is about 1oz (or 25-30 medium-sized almonds). It's about what will fit in the palm of your hand. These nuts also are not candied, honey-roasted, cooked in oil, or heavily salted. Just good ole plain raw or toasted nuts. Try it. They're actually good that way.
Now here's where the Mediterranean diet differs in a big way from the Paleo diet......it includes grains. Typically these are whole grains that contain very few unhealthy trans fats. Bread is an important part of the Mediterranean diet. Keep in mind, these breads are whole grain (complex carbs). They're also not slathered with butter or topped with shredded cheese. It's often just eaten plain or dipped in olive oil.
Another reason the Mediterranean diet is not hyped up by various companies is because it doesn't involve counting this or tracking that. It's hard to market making smart choices. For example with fats, the Mediterranean diet isn't about limiting total fat consumption. Rather it focuses on making wise choices about the types of fat you eat. In the Mediterranean diet it discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils which both contribute to coronary heart disease.
The Mayo Clinic sites olive oil as the major source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. Research shows that monounsaturated forms of fat (i.e. olive oil) helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. Extra virgin olive oil is less processed and contains the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (i.e. canola oil and some nuts) contain healthy omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acid have been shown to help lower triglycerides (fat), decrease blood clotting, decrease sudden heart attack, help improve the health of blood vessels, and moderate blood pressure. Omega-3 is also found in fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon. Fish is a staple in the Mediterranean diet.
So, basically following the Mediterranean diet means eating your daily requirements of fruits and veggies as well as getting in those grains. Just make sure you switch to whole-grain breads, whole-grain rice, and whole grain pasta products. And be sure to get in that serving of nuts each day. Try incorporating more olive oil into your diet in place of butter. Cut back on the red meat and include more poultry or better yet fatty fish into your diet. Be sure to steer clear of fried fish and purchase tuna or salmon that's packaged in water instead of oil.
Dairy is important to the Mediterranean diet, but select low-fat dairy. Look for 2% milk-fat or lower. Low fat Greek yogurt is an awesome source of protein and calcium.
Not convinced? No problem. Like I said, sticking with the Paleo diet does have some benefits. For those that are allergic to gluten or may have Celiac Disease, the Paleo diet is a great option. However, if you suspect you have gluten-sensitivity issues or have Celiac Disease, go to your doctor and get tested before you go gluten free. The testing done usually involves a blood test where they look for antibodies that your body produces when you eat gluten. If there is no gluten in your body, then your immune system won't produce these antibodies and none will show up in your body.
Also, if you stick with the Paleo Diet be sure that you're eating lean cuts of meat (mostly fish and poultry). I've had several clients who've gone to the Paleo diet and then are surprised that their colesterol levels have risen particularly the LDLs. You'll also need to make sure that you are eating those fruits and veggies. That's your only source of fiber in the Paleo diet. If you're eating the recommended amounts, you'll get plenty, but many I speak to are eating a lot more meat than veggies. Also, since the Paleo diet doesn't include dairy, you'll need to be sure to supplement your sources of Vitamin D3 and calcium. Women in particular need to make sure they're getting enough calcium. Calcium is vitally important in maintaining bone mass. For both men and women, calcium is important in making blood vessels and muscles function properly. Usually your source of calcium is from dairy and/or fortified cereals. With these removed from the Paleo diet, be sure to chomp on some TUMs or take another calcium supplement.
So, no matter your diet of choice, make wise decisions and check the bathwater before you toss it.