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The Mediterranean Diet

Research has shown that having a Mediterranean style diet is the best for people to follow in their 30s and above to live a long and healthy life. 

A new study found that eating a Mediterranean diet within your 30s, 40s and 50s helps to keep you fit and healthy into old age helping you to live linger. The study that was carried out, analysed the diets of more than 900 British men and women since they were born in March 1946, was conducted by researchers from the University of Southampton. The result from the study shows that those participants who ate the most fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals – representative of the Mediterranean diet – scored a better physical test than those who ate highly processed western foods. 

The lead scientist, Professor Sian Robinson said of the finds: “This study suggests that making good dietary choices throughout adulthood – by cutting down on highly processed foods and incorporating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet  can have a significant beneficial effect on strength and physical performance later in life, helping to ensure a much healthier old age.”

What is the difference between a Western diet and a Mediterranean diet?

The western diet is one which contains foods high in saturated fats, processed foods, red meats and refined carbohydrates like white bread, and low in fruit, vegetables, seafood and wholegrains. Nutritionist Fiona Hunter explains “Typically, those who conform to this so-called ‘Western’ way of eating have lower intakes of plant-based foods, as well as the essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that they contain.”

The western diet has been correlated with many health conditions such as coronary heart disease (CVD) for example high blood pressure as well as obesity, diabetes, dementia and inflammation. 

There are many health benefits to the Mediterranean diet. It has been shown that those of us who live a more Mediterranean food life have a lower risk of heart disease. In large population surveys, participants are given a score which is based on how their diet matches the standard Mediterranean pattern. Researchers often find the closer the score, the lower the overall death rate and the lower the rate of heart disease. Obesity is more common in those who follow a western diet compared to those who have a Mediterranean diet. Studies have been conducted observing adults who live in Greece finding that those who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet had a 51% lower risk of being obese and a 59% lower risk of having central obesity, where weight grain is most concentrated around the waist conferring greater heart health risk. Several recent studies suggest a Mediterranean style diet significantly reduces the risk of developing forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. A team from the University of Exeter re-analysed 24 studies, noting those who followed a Mediterranean diet were associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, lower rate of cognitive decline and better overall cognitive function as they get older compared with those who didn’t. 

Nutritionist Fiona Hunter shows how you can get the benefits of a Mediterranean diet from your own home:

1 – Choose unsaturated vegetable oils and spreads such as rapeseed or olive oil, instead of those made of animal fats like butter, ghee, lard and oils which are high in saturated fat such as coconut oil.

2 – Reduce saturated fat intake.

3 – Include plenty of plant-based sources of protein, such as nuts, pulses, legumes and soya products

4 – Eat at least two portions of fish twice per week, including at least one portion of oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herrings, sardines or pilchards. For most oily fish smoked, frozen and canned varieties all count. The only thing which does not contain the beneficial omega-3 fats, interestingly, is canned tuna. If fish is genuinely not for you, try taking omega-3 in supplementation form. Head over to our website now to order yours to boost your omega now!

4 – Make sure at least half of your carbohydrates come from wholegrains – around two to three servings a day.

5 – Have a least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day and opt for a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables. 

6 – Cut down on added salt and processed food, using herbs spices and lemon to flavour cooking naturally. 

7 – Try to include a small handful of nuts in your diet each week. 

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