For the fifth consecutive year, the Mediterranean diet tops the ranking as the healthier diet general. Additionally, US News chose it as the best diet in five categories: best diet for healthy eating, easiest to follow, best for diabetes, best for heart health, and best plant-based diet.
The Mediterranean diet or MedDiet is a tasty and nutritious diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, healthy fats, nuts, seeds and whole grains that provide dietary fiber, optimal protein, antioxidants, micronutrients, flavonoids, etc. Many research studies have shown its benefits in controlling or preventing noncommunicable diseases, reducing inflammation, optimizing brain function, and promote overall health. MedDiet is flexible, without strict rules, and is customized according to the needs of the individual. However, Indians complain that it does not suit their eating and cooking styles and is not sustainable in the long term.
In this article, you will find comprehensive information on the dietary principle of the MedDiet, some of its health benefits, foods to eat and avoid, and a sample meal plan designed for an Indian audience. Let’s bring to the table the highest ranked diet in the world.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
The MedDiet is a traditional diet followed by countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea basin such as Greece, Italy, Spain, among others. Looking at the relationship between the low incidence of Cardiovascular disease in some traditional Mediterranean communities and its specific dietary habits, Ancel Keys, an American scientist, coined the term “Mediterranean diet” and brought it to the attention of the medical public. In recent decades, researchers have also explored the use of MedDiet as a therapeutic intervention for aging, metabolic syndrome, Cancerand neurodegenerative diseases.
The diet encourages the consumption of olive oil as the main means of cooking, vegetable foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds), moderate consumption of fresh fish, shellfish, dairy products and avoid red meat. It restricts ultra-processed foods, packaged foods, sugar, trans fats, refined grains, and ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods.
The MedDiet has shown potential health benefits across a wide range of conditions.
The best diet for heart health.
A MedDiet is recommended by reputable health bodies like the American Heart Association. Several high-quality studies have found that the diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Nuts, seeds, fish, green leafy vegetables, fruits, and legumes contribute to heart-healthy qualities of the diet
A 2021 randomized control trial (RCT) of 1,002 patients with coronary heart disease reported decreased thickness of the common carotid arteries. Low-fat diets did not produce these results. The researchers concluded that consuming a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil in the long term decreased risk of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries). in a 2016 revision out of six trials involving more than 7,000 people, the MedDiet was also found to lower blood pressure.
MedDiet in diabetes
The Mediterranean diet consists of natural, whole foods that are beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. The UK National Health Service recognizes and recommends the diet for its higher fat content, lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and unprocessed foods. PREDIMED, a large, multicentre, controlled RCT found that MedDiet enriched with extra virgin olive oil and walnuts reduced the risk of diabetes by 52 percent in people with high cardiovascular risk. In the low-fat diet cohort, similar results were not seen. Regardless of caloric restriction, increased physical activity, or weight loss, the authors found that the beneficial effect appears to depend on overall dietary composition.
Supports healthy aging
You can eat your way to a longer life with MedDiet. Researchers have found that consuming the diet reduces age-related risk decreased lean muscle mass, bone density, fertility, and chronic health problems such as diabetes. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids obtained from nuts, seeds and fish are the main contributors to enhanced aging based on a 2020 review.
Promotes brain function
MedDiet promotes optimal brain function and reduces the risk of multiple brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementiaand cognitive impairment. The researchers found that long-term adherence to diet led to improved memory in 512 Alzheimer’s patients studied in 2021. A extensive review it also reported an improvement in cognitive function, memory, attention span, and processing speed in healthy older adults who followed the diet.
MedDiet in Indian context
The healthy food groups in the MedDiet can be chosen to fit any eating style, including indian cuisine. In India, most people believe that the MedDiet has to do with olive oil, an unusual cooking medium. But it’s much more than that.
What to eat?
The MedDiet is primarily plant-based and recommends eating fish and shellfish at least twice a week with a minimum of red meat, poultry, and eggs. avoid fry, excessive use of oiland spices, some characteristics of Indian cuisine.
Indians should start improving their diet for better health, considering the mountain of medical research on the benefits of the MedDiet. The diet includes everything green vegetablessweet potatoes, root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, fresh seasonal fruits, nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds), legumes and beans (peas, lentils, moong, toor, chickpeas, bengal gram), whole grains (oats, brown rice, millet, barley, whole wheat bread), fish and shellfish, dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk), herbs and spices.
Except for olives, avocados and their oils, all of these foods are abundant in India. In fact, fresh produce is readily available in most Indian markets. By consuming nuts, seeds, fish, ghee, coconut oil, and peanut oil, Indians can meet their daily needs for healthy fats.
What to avoid or limit?
MedDiet limits or avoids processed foods and ultra-processed foods loaded with added sugar, refined carbs (white bread, pasta, chips, crackers, etc.), trans fats (margarine, fried foods), refined seed oils (soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil ), processed meats. Whether you follow the MedDiet or not, these foods should be banned considering their detrimental health effects.
Sample menu for beginners.
The amount is individualized and should be decided by a nutritionist.
Breakfast – Oatmeal with nuts OR an omelette with vegetables, yogurt with sliced fruit and nuts.
Lunch – Brown rice, grilled fish, legumes, green vegetables.
Sandwich – A handful of nuts OR hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese with fresh fruit.
Dinner – grilled chicken salad with tomato, cucumber, grated cheese, seeds, chopped nuts, dressing.
That said, as we now know, Indians can follow the MedDiet if they want to. Why not give it a try?