It's no secret that the typical American diet can cause obesity and an assortment of cardiovascular health problems. When nutritionists and researchers began to look closely at the dietary lifestyles of the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea, however, their research revealed that not only did this region have a lower instance of health problems, but the people there also lived longer than Americans. Before jumping on the bandwagon, though, evaluate the pros and cons of the Mediterranean diet.
Basics of the Mediterranean diet
This diet promotes eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, olive oil, olives, nuts and seeds, lean meats, limited processed foods and moderate wine consumption. Because people who live along the sea tend to be physically active, the Mediterranean diet also encourages movement and exercise. Another aspect of the diet is that it celebrates Mediterranean culture, in which meals are important parts of the day and the social support system.
Pros of the Mediterranean diet
The Mayo Clinic reports that people who follow the Mediterranean diet benefit with "a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases." Other health organizations support this diet because most of the total fat in the Mediterranean diet comes from monounsaturated fat, which may help lower the risk of heart disease. The diet's emphasis on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables offers cancer-fighting benefits along with a lifestyle that encourages physical activity to help maintain a healthy weight.
Cons of the Mediterranean diet
Because the Mediterranean diet does not prescribe specific serving sizes each day, people trying to lose might be confused and eat too much, defeating their weight loss goals. Dieters often prefer following specific calorie measurements and guidelines, but none are given with this diet. People are also expected to determine whether the allowed one or two glasses of wine each day is a healthy choice for them. Consumption of alcohol is not advisable for people taking certain medications or who have elevated triglycerides or certain medical conditions such as pancreatitis.
While the Mediterranean diet is rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts and plant-based oils, the second most emphasized foods in the diet are fish and seafood. Modest amounts of poultry, cheese, yogurt, eggs and other lean meats are other protein sources. Strict vegetarians or vegans will have a hard time finding a healthy protein balance in their meals if they are on this diet.
For the most part, the Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy plan that you can easily adapt to your lifestyle. The pros far outweigh the cons because the food options in the diet are sound and healthy when individual variations are made and portion sizes controlled.