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Why the Mediterranean Diet Won a Gold Medal (Again!)

Dr Nosipho Mhlanga

The Mediterranean Diet consistently comes out on top when it comes to long-term health and wellbeing. Dr Nosi reveals why.

For the fourth year in a row, the Mediterranean diet has been named the world’s healthiest. Originating in the European coastal region, this diet is rich in vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, white meat and olive oil and low in refined sugars and saturated fats. It consistently delivers good results when it comes to overall wellbeing, promoting brain and heart health as well as helping to prevent, or delay, the onset of, conditions such as hypertension and obesity. 

 

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Unlike many other, more restrictive eating plans, the Mediterranean diet won’t leave you starving. Or broke! It is comprised of a wide variety of nutrient-dense food, and adhering to it can also be more cost-effective than our red meat-heavy South African diets. 

 

Need more convincing? Here are six reasons to make the change to this award-winning diet. Your body with thank you for it!

 

1. The Mediterranean Diet is Holistic

 Most fad diets require cutting out certain food groups. Banting, for example, demands you eat very little carbohydrates. But we know that our bodies need a portion from each group to be in balance. 

 

Diets that cut out big chunks of the food pyramid can not only disrupt that balance but are notoriously difficult to stick to. This deprivation can result in cheat days or you falling off the wagon completely. The Mediterranean diet, however, has a wide range of food to choose from so you are not left hungry or unsatisfied. 

 

2. It’s Rich in Essential Nutrients

Because of the variety on offer with the Mediterranean diet, it is rich in the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. 

 

Diets that require the elimination of one or more food groups can leave you feeling depleted. This is because you are not providing your body with the fuel it needs. Sure, you could replace them with supplements. But this means committing to taking pills every day. The Mediterranean diet contains all the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health no supplement required!

 

3. It Supplies Your Body with Antioxidants

The Mediterranean diet hinges on its hero ingredient: olive oil. Olive oil is loaded with antioxidants which can fend off the damage done by the free radicals released by dead skin cells in the body. So the more antioxidants you have in your body, the better it functions. 

The polyphenols present in olive oil are also beneficial when it comes to maintaining your cardiovascular health and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. So using this type of oil instead of canola or coconut oil could reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses.

 

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4. It’s Good for Gut Health and Makes for Easy Digestion

In Mzansi, we *love* our red meat. But we shouldn’t be eating it after five o’clock in the evening to allow for proper digestion. This can lead to poor gut health and even weight gain. 

 

Because the Mediterranean diet limits the intake of red meat, as well as sugar and saturated fats, your food can pass through your system more quickly and easily. The fibre in this diet from the various grains also keeps you regular and prevents bloating and discomfort. 

 

5. It Can Delay the Onset of Type 2 Diabetes

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 1.8 million South Africans have been diagnosed with diabetes. People are also discovering they have diabetes, or are prediabetic, early than before. This is a result of the generally poor diets we eat that are loaded with preservatives and sugar. 

 

Olive oil is not just a great immune supporter and anti-inflammatory but can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Combine it with a healthy, Mediterranean diet and regular exercise and you can prevent yourself from becoming another statistic.

 

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