One of the least controversial diets, the Mediterranean diet claims to decrease weight gain, high blood pressure, cholesterol and even waist circumference! Year after year, experts rate it as one of the healthiest diets in the world!
What makes the Mediterranean diet “better” than other diets? Rather than being a restrictive food plan, the Mediterranean diet encourages a healthy way of eating based on the region’s traditional foods – mainly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil. The inhabitants around the Mediterranean Sea were known to have a lower risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. To this day, the Mediterranean diet remains one of the most nutritious diets.
How to follow the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes specific food groups while limiting others. It encourages more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil, while limiting processed foods, sweets, high-sodium foods, dairy and meats. The focus is on eating foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods to eat
Healthy fats: The main source of fat is olive oil, with other healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds. High in monounsaturated fats, healthy fats can decrease the risk of heart disease. Another important part of the diet consists of omega-3 fatty fish, which help to reduce triglycerides, blood pressure and inflammation. 
Antioxidant-rich foods: Fruits and vegetables are anti-inflammatory in nature, and also full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre. They should be eaten at every meal for good health.
Foods to avoid
White flour products: Breads, pasts, cereals and baked goods are made from refined white flour that is devoid of vitamins and nutrients, while being high in sugar. In high amounts, these foods can lead to increased body fat, cholesterol and inflammation. 
Red meats: Lean meats such as poultry or turkey are preferred, as red meat is higher in saturated fats. Studies show that processed meats may have a harmful effect on LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), although the research is mixed.  If you’re looking for healthy omega-3 fats from a meat source, an option is grass-fed beef.
A sustainable and holistic approach
Beyond choosing the right foods, this diet emphasizes lifestyle habits to build a sustainable and holistic approach to health.
Exercise: The Mediterranean diet does not neglect the importance of exercise in a healthy lifestyle. However, exercise does not have to be anything straining or difficult. Stick to what you enjoy and do it routinely, whether that be dancing, walking or your favourite sports activity!
Healthy eating habits: Rather than eliminating any food group, the Mediterranean diet encourages you to eat more healthy foods. It is an excellent way to adopt healthy eating habits for life!
The evidence behind the Mediterranean diet claims:
Studies show that people who follow the Mediterranean diet have a 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as it decreases blood sugar imbalances and inflammation.  This proves that if you are at risk of heart disease, you may not be restricted to follow a low-fat diet. Rather, healthy fats from avocado, fatty fish, nuts and olive oil can be beneficial.
This diet contains ample amount of healthy fats and fibre, which will leave you feeling satiated after eating. Fibre is digested slowly and prevents blood sugar spikes – helping you to maintain a healthy weight. A simple addition of eating 30g of fibre per day has been shown to help you lose weight. 
If you want to retain your brain’s focus, concentration, and memory-storing capabilities, eating a nutritious diet should not be overlooked. People who follow a Mediterranean diet show a slower decline in cognitive function  and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s. This is because eating a diet high in fatty fish has been associated with higher cognitive function – fatty fish is full of omega-3 fats that are needed for optimal brain functions. It’s no wonder that Health Canada recommends fish oil supplementation for both children and adult. Try CanPrev’s Omega-Pro 1:1, which provides 4400mg of wild deep-sea fish oil without fishy taste!
Although research on gut health is relatively new, a study showed following this diet can positively alter the gut microbiome, leading to better digestion, lower inflammation and a stronger immune system. 
Another impressive advantage of the Mediterranean diet – it has been shown to have a protecting effect on preventing and managing depressive symptoms.  Studies show that this diet increases BDNF levels, which inversely correlated with major depressive disorder, PTSD, Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. 
How can you get started today
The truth is, diets with food restrictions tend to cause more problems in the long run. The Mediterranean diet offers a healthy way of eating that is sustainable because it empowers you with a helpful roadmap. Begin swapping out foods for a healthier alternative, move your body often, and surround your meals with people that make you happy. Wherever you are in your journey, you can get started today by making one healthy choice at a time.
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