Sure, you heard a lot about keto in 2018—but the Mediterranean Diet is jumping into the spotlight for 2019.
For the first time, the Mediterranean diet landed in the number one spot on U.S. News’ ranking of Best Diets (in 2018, it was tied with the DASH diet for the number one spot).
But it’s not like the Mediterranean Diet is anything new—it’s been around since the 1960s, and you’ve likely heard alllll about its health benefits: longevity, weight loss, disease prevention. And more importantly, the diet is super-easy to follow (and stick with!) long-term. Here’s everything else you need to know about the Mediterranean diet.
What is the Mediterranean diet? The basics:
The diet is based on the eating practices of those who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, who are less likely to suffer from cancer and heart disease than Americans. The diet can also help you keep weight off: an American Journal of Medicine found the Mediterranean diet to be just as helpful as low-carb diets for weight loss.
As U.S. News points out, the Mediterranean diet isn’t a single prescriptive plan but more a way of life: Those who follow the eating plan fill up on healthy fats, nuts, fruits, and veggies.
What can you eat on the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet might best be exemplified by a really decadent Greek salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions make up the bulk of the meal, and pieces of feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil complement the crunch. Add in a couple of anchovies, and you’re golden.
This eating pattern emphasizes a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and olive oil. Fish, poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt (think Greek!) are suggested in moderation.
Many of those who follow the Mediterranean Diet will include a glass of red wine with dinner, though this certainly isn’t required. And even though this is a diet, physical activity is embedded into the plan (it’s a huge part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, per U.S. News). So make sure to get in some steps or hit the gym to fully feel the effects.
What can’t you eat on the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is gentler than strict eating routines that cut out whole food groups. While anything is game when going Mediterranean, meat—especially red meat—and sweets in particular are meant to be reserved for special occasions. Processed foods (like anything you can buy in a box or a bag at the grocery store) are also not traditionally allowed on the plan.
While the diet is definitely not restrictive, you’ll need to figure out portion size and calories on your own so you don’t over do it. Here’s what 1,200 calories looks like on the plan. You certainly won’t want to be over-pouring servings of olive oil (one teaspoon has 80 calories), especially if weight loss is a goal.
What are the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet?
There’s plenty of research that supports the Mediterranean Diet’s newly earned title of the best diet for 2019.
According to one 2016 study’s findings, presented at a conference in Brussels by the NU-AGE project, the diet may be the closest thing to drinking from the fountain of youth. Researchers found that eating Mediterranean-style decreased levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker associated with aging. It also lowered the rate of bone loss for participants with osteoporosis.
A separate study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal looked at data from a five-year trial that included more than 7,400 adults with Type 2 diabetes or who were at risk for cardiovascular disease. People were split up into three groups: One followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, one followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, and one followed a low-fat control diet.
Over the five years, people who followed a Mediterranean diet with olive oil lost the most weight, showing that restricting fats doesn’t help with weight loss or maintenance.
So if you’re looking for a new diet for 2019—one that won’t just help you lose weight but will also slash your risk of illness and improve your mind—the Mediterranean diet is worth checking out.
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