For the fifth consecutive year, the Mediterranean diet topped the rankings as healthiest food globally. Additionally, US News chose it as the Best Diet in five categories: Best Diet for Healthy Eating, Easiest to Follow, Best for Diabetes, Best for Heart Health, and Best Herbal Diet. plants.
The Mediterranean Diet or MedDiet is a tasty and nutritious diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, and whole grains that provide dietary fiber, optimal protein, antioxidants, micronutrients, flavonoids, and more. Numerous research studies have demonstrated its benefits in controlling or preventing non-communicable diseases, reducing inflammation, optimizing brain function and promote overall health. MedDiet is flexible, without strict rules, and is personalized according to individual needs. Indians, however, complain that it does not suit their eating and cooking styles and is not sustainable in the long run.
In this article, you will find comprehensive information on the dietary principle of MedDiet, some of its health benefits, foods to eat and avoid, and a sample meal plan suitable for an Indian audience. Let’s put the world’s top-ranked diet on the table.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
The MedDiet is a traditional diet followed by countries bordering the Mediterranean basin such as Greece, Italy, Spain, among others. By observing the relationship between the low incidence of cardiovascular disease in some traditional Mediterranean communities and their specific eating habits, Ancel Keys, an American scientist, coined the term “Mediterranean diet” and brought it to the attention of the medical public. In recent decades, researchers have also explored the use of MedDiet as a therapeutic intervention for aging, metabolic syndrome, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
The diet encourages the consumption of olive oil as the main means of cooking, plant foods – whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds – moderate consumption of fresh fish, seafood, dairy products and avoidance of red meat. It restricts ultra-processed foods, packaged foods, sugar, trans fats, refined grains, and ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods.
MedDiet has shown potential health benefits for a wide range of conditions.
The best diet for heart health
A MedDiet is recommended by renowned health organizations such as the American Heart Association. A number of high-quality studies have shown that diet is associated with a low risk of heart disease and stroke. Nuts, seeds, fish, leafy greens, fruits and legumes contribute to the heart-healthy qualities of the diet.
A 2021 randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving 1002 patients with coronary artery disease reported a decrease in the thickness of the common carotid arteries. Low-fat diets did not produce these results. The researchers concluded that long-term consumption of a Mediterranean diet high in extra virgin olive oil decreased risk of atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque in the arteries). In a 2016 review of six trials involving more than 7,000 people, the MedDiet was also found to reduce blood pressure.
MedDiet in diabetes
The Mediterranean diet consists of natural, whole foods that are beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. The National Health Service, UK recognizes and recommends the diet for its higher fat content, abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and unprocessed foods. PREDIMED, a large multicenter controlled RCT, found that the MedDiet enriched with extra virgin olive oil and walnuts reduces the risk of diabetes by 52% in people with high cardiovascular risk. In the low-fat diet cohort, similar results were not observed. Regardless of calorie restriction, increased physical activity, or weight loss, the authors found that the beneficial effect appears to depend on overall dietary composition.
Promotes healthy aging
You can eat your way to a longer life with MedDiet. Researchers have found that consuming the food reduces the age risk decreased lean muscle mass, bone density, fertility, and chronic health conditions like diabetes. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids obtained from nuts, seeds and fish are major contributors to improved aging according to a 2020 report.
Promotes brain function
MedDiet promotes optimal brain function and reduces the risk of multiple brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive impairment. The researchers found that long-term plan membership leads to improved memory in 512 Alzheimer’s patients studied in 2021. thorough review also reported improved cognitive function, memory, attention span and processing speed in healthy older people who followed the diet.
MedDiet in the Indian context
The MedDiet’s healthy food groups can be chosen to fit any eating style, including indian cuisine. In India, most people think MedDiet is all about olive oil, an uncommon cooking medium. But it is much more than that.
What to eat?
The MedDiet is primarily plant-based, recommending eating fish and seafood at least twice a week with minimal red meat, poultry, and eggs. He avoids frying, excessive use of oiland spices — some characteristics of Indian cuisine.
Indians should start improving their diets for better health, given the mountain of medical research on the benefits of the MedDiet. The scheme includes all green vegetablessweet potatoes, tubers, dark leafy greens, fresh seasonal fruits, nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds), legumes and beans (peas, lentils, moong, toor , chickpeas, bengal gram), whole grains (oats, brown rice, millet, barley, whole wheat bread), fish and seafood, dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk), herbs and spices.
With the exception of olives, avocados and their oils, all of these foods are abundant in India. In fact, fresh produce is readily available in most Indian markets. By consuming nuts, seeds, fish, ghee, coconut oil, and peanut oil, Indians can meet their daily requirement for healthy fats.
What to avoid or limit?
MedDiet limits or avoids processed foods and ultra-processed foods loaded with added sugar, refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, chips, crackers, etc.), trans fats (margarine, fried foods), refined seed oils (soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil ), processed meats. Whether you follow MedDiet or not, these foods should be banned given their adverse health effects.
A sample menu for beginners
The amount is individualized and should be decided by a nutritionist.
Breakfast – groats with nuts OR a vegetable omelette, yogurt with sliced fruit and nuts.
Breakfast – Brown rice, grilled fish, legumes, green vegetables.
Nibble – A handful of nuts OR hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese with fresh fruit.
Having dinner – Grilled chicken salad with tomato, cucumber, grated cheese, seeds, chopped nuts, vinaigrette.
That said, as we now know, MedDiet can be followed by Indians if they wish. Why not try it?