International Mediterranean Diet Month

This month, I spent some time in Spain, which was recently found to be the healthiest country in the world, according to the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index. During my time there, I couldn’t help but pay close attention to the lifestyles and diets of those around me. I also made my first visit to the Mediterranean Sea, so naturally, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the ever-popular, heart-healthy, Mediterranean Diet.

Most of us have a general idea of the Mediterranean Diet but what are the actual benefits? And is it actually the right diet for everyone? Well, my friends, I have decided to aggregate some information on the diet and share my summary with you, since after all, May is International Mediterranean Diet Month!

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

This diet is inspired by the eating habits seen in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.  This includes a handful of countries with diets that have different cultural influences but because of their proximity to each other and the sea, there are similarities between them all. The ingredients these countries use and the cooking styles that they implement are the foundation of this popular diet.

Not only do the inhabitants of these countries have a beautiful climate with wonderful beaches nearby, but they also embrace a diet that is heart-healthy and helps to place them at the top of the healthiest countries in the world!

The ingredients and focus of the Mediterranean Diet include eating primarily plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts), replacing butter with healthy fats (primarily olive oil), using herbs and spices instead of salt, and limiting red meat consumption. Intake of eggs, poultry, fish and sweets are weekly indulgences for individuals who embrace this diet.

What about exercise?

Exercise is outlined as a component of the diet but often can be interpreted by the individual adopting the diet. I believe that a big factor contributing to the health of individuals in these countries is their activity level, not necessarily deliberate exercise. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Spain a number of times, getting to see different parts of the country, and each time I am impressed by the level of activity.

Just walking around some of these towns, you can understand that day-to-day life involves a bit more physicality than here. In a lot of the cities, it just makes more sense to walk than drive. While most of us would look at this as a burden, the fact that they have a mild climate makes the walking an enjoyable task year-round.

What are the benefits?

The Mediterranean Diet is associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease – even when calories are not restricted! Additionally, there is evidence that this diet may reduce the risks of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Heart disease is the number one killer in America, with Alzheimer’s as the sixth leading cause of death. Any opportunity to reduce the risk of these deadly and devastating diseases is an opportunity I’d like to take!

One big reason why this diet can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease is that it greatly reduces your sodium intake, without having to closely monitor it. In addition to reducing sodium intake, this diet is also known to increase potassium intake, which helps to lower your risk of hypertension. Hypertension is a chronic disease in the U.S. and one that can indicate increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

The diet includes a wide array of foods that provide vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc and other nutrients that help to maintain healthy skin and promote immune function.

Are there any health risks for individuals following the Mediterranean Diet?

If individuals follow the Mediterranean Diet guidelines, there are no known health risks associated with it. Most studies have found nothing but benefits for individuals that follow the diet closely. So, if you’re looking to improve your diet and take control of your health – why not give the Mediterranean Diet a try?

Written by Allison Anderson

Allison has been working for Oswald's since 2007. A 6th generation member of the Wickel-Oswald-Kester-Anderson family, Allison focuses on natural & organic products, social media, and online promotions. Allison graduated with a BA in Telecommunications from Indiana University Bloomington in 2013, minoring in Marketing. After graduating from IU, Allison worked at SAP Fieldglass as a Business Analyst. A graduate of Naperville North High School in 2009, Allison currently lives in Naperville and is attending classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studying Nutrition.