Juice cleanses, keto, paleo, intermittent fasting… We are inundated with diet programs and food trends. They all claim to be the holy grail for a healthy, long and slim life. You just have to stick to a few simple (read: Spartan) rules of life, and the pounds will fly off. You start your fight on January 1 with good courage. But a month and many broken promises later, your new self is back to being slightly overweight. But what if all that self-torture is not necessary. What if you could just live a nice and normal life, without having to make major health sacrifices? The Mediterranean diet may offer a solution.
The Mediterranean diet
The list of promised benefits of the Mediterranean diet is almost endless. From living longer and healthier with less stress to a happier existence. And all through eating. Sounds good, but what does science say about that?
Indeed, the Mediterranean diet is associated with a host of health benefits. For example, it would lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a reduced risk of diabetes and other metabolic diseases, a reduced risk of certain types of cancer and a reduced risk of mental disorders, including dementia and depression. In addition, following the diet would also help you lose weight and be associated with a better night’s sleep and a higher quality of life.
That’s not nothing, but what about it?
The Mediterranean menu is full of unsaturated fats, fiber and vitamins. On the other hand, Southern Europeans take it easy on red meat, saturated fats and added sugars. In addition, these bon vivants have a strong preference for fresh, and they opt for unprocessed varieties of foods.
The Mediterranean diet, as the name suggests, comes from the Mediterranean region. That is the area around the Mediterranean Sea. The diet therefore consists of products from that region. And especially from Spain, Italy and Greece. This is what the shopping list looks like:
Vegetables: tomato, pepper, cucumber, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, onion
Fruit: citrus fruits (orange, lemon, etc.), berries, grapes, peaches, figs
Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pine nuts
Cereals: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta (as long as it is whole wheat)
Legumes: chickpeas, beans, lentils
Fish: salmon, tuna, mackerel, shrimp
Poultry: chicken, turkey, duck
Olive oil: often and a lot
Dairy: Greek yogurt, cheese (especially goat cheese), and sometimes some milk
Herbs and spices: garlic, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, coriander
Red wine: Italians remain Italians, a glass of wine from time to time should be allowed
If you look closely at the Wheel of Five, you will see that the Mediterranean shopping list is quite similar to the government’s nutritional advice. And they didn’t just come out of the blue. They are simply healthy products. Unsaturated fats are good for your heart and blood vessels and lower your cholesterol. Whole grain products are good for digestion, among other things. And it will come as no surprise that fruit and vegetables are healthy.
The importance of balance
Please note: the Mediterranean diet is not a license to only eat pizza and lasagna from now on. It may seem that way on holiday, but even in Italy they really don’t eat that every day. You should also not overdo the glass of wine. The Mediterranean diet excels in its balance. You don’t have to starve yourself or impose too strict lifestyle rules, but rather enjoy the diversity that nature has to offer. This makes the Mediterranean diet perhaps one of the more feasible and realistic diets.
What sets the Mediterranean diet apart from all the other diets is that it is not based on a new food trend, but on a broader lifestyle that has proven itself for centuries. It’s not just about what you eat, but moderation and healthy exercise also play a role.
People have been eating according to the Mediterranean menu long before Sonja Bakker was born. Not because they saw it on Instagram, but because it worked. People needed to feed themselves, and the Mediterranean menu got the job done. In addition, it was also simply a practical necessity. This is what the area had to offer.
Okay, so the Mediterranean diet works quite well, but what about all those other diets such as paleo, keto and intermittent fasting?
And what actually happens to your body when you try to lose a lot of kilos quickly?