It’s a well-known fact that eating a Mediterranean diet has numerous health benefits. But according to new research, it’s also more likely to help weight loss than a low-fat diet.
A study by the University of Barcelona revealed an unrestricted-calorie Mediterranean diet, high in olive oil, led to participants losing a small amount of weight over five years – an average of 0.88 kg (1.9 pounds), compared to people eating a similar diet rich in nuts, who lost 0.40 kg (0.88 pounds), and people on a low-fat diet, who were 0.60 kg (1.3 pounds) lighter.
It may only be a small amount of weight, but as it was lost on an unrestricted-calorie diet, the study suggests Mediterranean eating could be the best way to go – particularly when you consider the diet’s proven health benefits, including a reduced risk of developing heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes, as well as having improved brain power.
So how do you eat Mediterranean? While it’s a diet that’s generally rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, beans, fish and olive oil, here are some more specific tips…
Be healthy with your fat
Try to use olive oil for cooking and baking, instead of margarines and butter. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, but polyunsaturated fats from nuts, seeds and oily fish are also included. A key element of the Mediterranean diet is omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, flax seed, walnuts and pulses.
Eat your greens
Eat as many vegetables as possible, in a range of colours to maximise antioxidants and vitamins.
Reduce red meat
Cut down on red meat and consume protein from skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, nuts and other plants.
Go for grains
Make sure your bread, pasta, rice and grains are wholegrain. Try grains like oats, quinoa and barley.
Snack on seeds
Snack on seeds, nuts, whole fruits and unprocessed foods, instead of biscuits, cakes and crisps.
Keep booze intake low
Keep alcohol consumption low to moderate, and try to only drink with food.
Benefits of a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet can cut the long-term risk of heart disease by half, research shows. A Greek study of more than 2,500 adults found those who closely followed a traditional Mediterranean diet were 47% less likely to develop heart disease than those who didn’t. The reduced risk may be linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Research also suggests the Med diet can help reduce the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes as it promotes better control of blood glucose levels and can help lower obesity.
It may protect against breast cancer.
Reduces the risk of womb cancer by more than half.
Helps reduce obesity and its complications, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Helps reduce brain shrinkage – a US study of 674 people with an average age of 80 showed that those following a Mediterranean-like diet had larger brains.
Can help preserve memory and thinking abilities.
Reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Reduced risk of depression.
Less inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
A 20% reduced risk of death at any age – due mainly to the decreased incidence of heart disease and cancer.