The Mediterranean diet secrets revealed
Mediterranean cultures have long been hailed for their startling good health; glowing skin, low rates of heart disease and low incidences of obesity and diabetes. For years some experts have been hailing the Mediterranean diet as one of the best ways to turn your health around, but it’s only now a comprehensive Spanish study has been released that we understand why. And, more importantly, we now know which aspects to incorporate into our own diet to reap the benefits.
The Predimed study is one of the most thorough reviews of the Mediterranean diet undertaken in the world. The trial began in 2003 and spanned nine years, looking at the health and cardiovascular disease risk of over 7000 people. A typical Mediterranean diet, popular in Portugal, Crete, Spain and Southern Italy, usually consists of lots of fruit and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, lots of seafood, olive oil and small amounts of meat and wine. What researchers Dr Emilio Ros and Professor Jordi Salas-Salvado found however is that one small aspect of this diet holds a powerful punch of health benefits.
“[It became apparent] that nut diets, of any nut type, lower blood cholesterol,” said Dr Ros of North Node Barcelona hospital. Not only did participants who included 30g of nuts in their Mediterranean diet cut their risk of diabetes in half (52 per cent), they also showed reduced obesity measures like BMI and waist circumference. And they even improved brain health with stronger cognitive performance.
Professor Salas-Salvado said the success of the diet lies in the fact that it’s not the latest fad, but a traditional tried-and-tested regimen steeped in history, and now backed by science. “We know there is a fear of weight gain surrounding foods high in good fats, like nuts, but this is absolutely unfounded,” he said during the International Congress of Dietetics that took place in Sydney this month.
While this study gives great insight into ways to improve our daily food intake, Professor Salas-Salvado says it will also help change our food perceptions. “It’s time for people to forget the low-fat hype and embrace good fats,” he said.
So how can you incorporate the findings and advice in your diet? Measure 30g of mixed nuts at the start of each day, avoiding the salted variety. Including them in your day is as simple as adding nuts to salad as a garnish, snacking on them mid-afternoon or tossing them through a stir-fry for dinner. It’s a seemingly small change that may yield significant long-term health benefits.
Words by Sophie Miura, health and feature writer at madison magazine.
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