The Mediterranean diet is a primarily plant-based eating plan that includes daily intake of whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices. Other foods like animal proteins are eaten in smaller quantities, with the preferred animal protein being fish and seafood. The health benefits are numerous.
- Strengthens the Immune System – The diet contains anti-inflammatory foods to develop a stronger immune system. Inflammation in the body weakens the immune system and its ability to fight off illness and disease. Toxins and free radicals often accumulate in the body from poor nutritional choices. Foods that are low in anti-inflammatory ingredients and high in nutrients and antioxidants fight free radicals in the body that damage tissues and cells.
- Focuses on Monosaturated Fats – The diet is low in saturated fats and high in healthy fats, primarily monounsaturated fats. More than half of its fat calories come from monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds. This attributes to a decreased risk of heart disease and other fatal diseases. Unhealthy fats, including saturated and trans-fats, in contrast, increase the build-up of plaque in the arteries and lead to atherosclerosis. This is a contributing risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
- Emphasizes Lower Protein Content – It emphasizes nutrient-rich foods that are high in fiber and healthy fats. In particular, the diet consists of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, such as bread and pastas, olive oils, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, fish, and minimal poultry. This creates a balance between energizing complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It is believed that too much protein in the body may increase inflammation, as the organs, including the liver, must work harder to break down these foods. Hence, eggs and meat are typically only eaten once or twice weekly.
- Promotes Healthy Digestion – The Mediterranean Diet includes high-fiber foods such as beans, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. Fiber is essential to decreasing inflammation in the body since it aids in healthy digestion. Fiber is the undigested part of plant food that moves through the body for elimination. Along the way, it accumulates excess toxins and waste products that are harmful to the body and produce gastrointestinal distress and inflammation. These foods also help to stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent hunger cravings, encouraging weight loss and management.