The Mediterranean Diet Controversery

I love the Mediterranean Diet. With all the fad diets whirling around the Internet, it is easy to get confused. This is one diet that you do not have to worry about. It does not require changing your eating habits to any kind of extreme, starving yourself for long stretches, or making dramatic lifestyle changes.

In fact, the Mediterranean Diet is not only one of the safest and healthiest ways to eat, it is practical, as well.  Basically, all it requires is eating a healthier, natural diet and enjoying the food you are eating.

It is a way of slowing down, developing a healthy relationship with food, and appreciating food. The diet is time-tested because people in many parts of the world have been eating this type of diet for centuries.

And yet . . . in spite of all those powerful points, there is still some controversy about the diet, which I want to address and dispel today (if at all possible).

Inclusion of Fats

Mediterranean Diet
Image by AngelSimon

Sounds surprising – and yes, the Mediterranean Diet does not shy away from “healthy” fats, even though that is out of the ordinary for most diets. In fact, many of the recipes are prepared with large amounts of olive oil or with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Your first instinct may be to question how that could possibly be healthy. We have heard from the experts for years that fat creates bad cholesterol and leads to heart disease and weight gain.

Fat does contain more calories per gram (9 to be exact – verses 4 grams in carbs or protein). BUT . . . the upside is that fat releases energy much slower, which keeps you feeling full longer and alleviates the craving for sugar and the damage that sugar causes in your body, such as the risk of diabetes.

Regions of the world where this diet is prevalent has a much lower incidence of diabetes among the population.

Another fact you may not know is that fat does not actually cause high cholesterol or heart disease. Recent studies have looked at this theory and found just the opposite.  Healthy fats lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve the good cholesterol (HDL).

Fat also has other direct health benefits. It increases testosterone, which leads to greater physical strength and weight loss; and, it also enhances nutrient absorption that is important for a healthy brain.

Inclusion of Wine

In addition to the unusual inclusion of fats, wine and carbs are also part of the Mediterranean Diet. If you have been paying attention

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

to articles about carbohydrates, you are probably aware that carbs provide a sudden sugar hit, which some of the experts have declared as very bad. There is some truth to that information, but it is tempered by the types of carbs eaten, plus the overall diet consumed.

The Mediterranean Diet contains fewer simple carbs than most typical Western diets. The emphasis is on “natural foods” and the avoidance of processed foods that are filled with additives, high sugar and high unhealthy fat content – foods such as prepared meals, chocolate, candy, sodas and highly-caffeinated drinks.

The emphasis of the diet is to stop thinking of food as something you inhale on the run – grabbing the most convenient items available. The goal is for you to actually start eating regular, planned meals of healthy foods that will dramatically improve your over-all health.

But . . . what about the wine? Over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages of any kind is not a good thing. But, alcohol in small quantities has been shown to actually increase the human lifespan – especially red wine, which contains the all-important ‘resveratrol’ for strengthening the mitochondria.

The key words in the above paragraph are – taken in “small quantities.” This is not permission to “drink all you want.”

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

To sum it all up in the words of Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, a certified doctor of natural medicine:

Considered by many nutrition experts to be one of the most heart-healthy ways of eating there is, the base of the Mediterranean diet is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods and built upon plant-based foods and healthy fats.

Based on much research, this particular diet can protect against the development of heart disease, metabolic complications, depression, cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The best part is, even with all of these benefits, it still provides the opportunity for people to “eat, drink and be merry.”

Read his entire article for the 8 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

Image by tepic
Image by tepic

If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your food, the Mediterranean Diet is a choice I encourage you to explore.