The Mediterranean Diet is the traditional diet of people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Tunisia. Described in the 1950s by the American scientist Ancel Keys, this way of eating incorporates simplicity and moderation.
Essentially composed of plant-based dishes and unprocessed foods, the Mediterranean Diet contains little added sugar, bad saturated or trans fats, or salt, and provides a great many nutrients: dietary fibre, antioxidants, minerals, and good mono and polyunsaturated fats.
There is no ultimate diet, but if there were, the Mediterranean plan would come darn close.
Featuring staples like olive oil, nuts and vegetables, the Mediterranean diet has been heralded as a game changer for health and longevity. Countless studies have connected the eating plan to lower risks of heart attack and stroke and some have suggested the diet can even slow or prevent memory loss. Researchers speculate that the protective benefits likely stem from the combined effect of the diet’s healthy fats and nutrients.
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet for borderline diabetes
Many experts now believe that the recent surge in diabesity (diabetes plus obesity) has been fuelled by an obsession with low-fat eating, leading to over-consumption of cheap and easily digestible carbohydrates.
Rapidly absorbed by your body, these create an instant spike in blood sugar levels, which then crash, making you hungry again and eventually causing your body to become resistant to insulin, the hormone that regulates our blood sugar.
The impressive thing about Mediterranean-style eating is just how widespread its benefits are. Studies have shown that it not only cuts your risk of heart disease and borderline diabetes, but it may also delay the onset of dementia and cognitive impairment (when you struggle with remembering, learning new things and making decisions).
Consuming extra-virgin olive oil seems to be particularly beneficial when it comes to preventing breast cancer, perhaps because it contains compounds such as polyphenols, which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects.
A very recent finding is that women who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil had 68 per cent less chance of developing breast cancer than those on a low-fat diet.
Why is the Mediterranean diet recommended?
The diet is often recommended by health charities and the NHS because it has a higher proportion of unsaturated to saturated fats, includes plenty of fresh vegetables and depends on largely unprocessed foods.
The diet is not a restrictive diet and so it is not linked with vitamin or mineral deficiencies and therefore gets further praise as an easy diet to adopt and follow.