Best Diet For The New Year: The Mediterranean Diet
The New Year is fast approaching and with it comes resolutions to make changes in our lives. This year, whether your goal is weight loss or just bettering your overall health, the Mediterranean diet should be at the top of your list. Many people consider this diet more of a lifestyle because of its ability to reduce all-cause mortality by focusing on whole foods, low fat, leafy greens, and lean meats.
The diet is touted as one of the healthiest options available. It promotes weight loss, healthy eating, brain health, lowers blood pressure, can treat hypertension, slow neurodegenerative delay, and fight against chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Mediterranean diet has been around for centuries, promoting life longevity and better overall health. It has also been voted best overall diet by U.S News for 4 years in a row. Let's take a look at what makes the diet so great!
History of the Mediterranean Diet
The diet is based on food that has been traditionally eaten in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and originated from Greek and Roman culture. The Greeks and Romans diets revolved around whole grains, leafy greens, fruits, lean protein mostly from seafood and poultry, and lots of extra virgin olive oil.
In 1970 when Ancel Keys completed the "Seven Country Study,” the Mediterranean diet began to gain popularity. The Seven Country Study looked deeply into the lifestyle and food consumption of 7 different countries around the world. It concluded that the Mediterranean diet and consistent exercise helps lower chances of chronic conditions and produces life longevity.
The diet gained even more traction in recent years when Harvard University's School of Public Health established the most official form of the diet in the 1990s. Most recently, the diet was reintroduced to society as a weight loss plan. It was promoted as a great way to lose weight fast, but it's a healthy eating pattern that anyone can follow and can even be developed into a lifestyle to promote overall health and well-being.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The diet is a lifestyle focused on healthy eating, physical activity, and enjoying meals and red wine with others. The main dietary components are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds, and lean meat with extra virgin olive oil being a key ingredient throughout the diet. It doesn't include dairy but does allow moderate amounts of low-fat cheese or yogurt along with small servings of fish or poultry each week for protein sources.
Beef, pork, venison, and goat aren't included much in the Mediterranean lifestyle but can be added sparingly to certain recipes if desired by an individual's taste preference. Research shows people who follow this lifestyle tend to live longer because of the many nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and omega-three fatty acids it provides. This diet has been proven to both prevent and manage chronic conditions.
Foods to include on the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a well-rounded way of eating with no absolute food restrictions. There is a wide variety of foods recommended within the Mediterranean diet guidelines, including:
- Non starchy vegetables
- Whole grains: oats or quinoa
- Leafy greens: spinach or kale
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lean protein: fish or poultry
- Red Meat: limited amounts
- Dairy: limited amounts
The foods mentioned above are mostly plant-based, high fiber foods full of omega-three fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and other valuable nutrients.
Foods to avoid on the Mediterranean Diet
- Refined Sugars
- Processed Meats
- Trans Fats
Processed foods are a modern issue that has created a new health epidemic. These foods include anything that has an ingredient list full of preservatives, sugars, and chemicals to help them last longer and taste better. Anything that has a long shelf life or genetically modified is considered processed.
Advantages of The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean lifestyle has many advantages, such as:
- Easy to follow
- Promotes life longevity
- Improves overall well-being
- Fights chronic conditions
- Helps you lose weight
Weight loss does not always have to be your primary reason for initiating a lifestyle change. Following a balanced, nutritious diet and engaging in daily exercise will promote better overall well-being and improve quality of life.
Other Popular Diets and their Limitations
Historically, if your main goal is to lose weight, many people have tried the Weight Watchers diet. Weight Watchers is a calorie-restricted diet that allows you to eat lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products (in moderation), legumes, seeds, and healthy oils. This diet assigns “points” to foods which you count every day. The downside is that this diet can be time-consuming and confusing for those who want a simple approach to weight loss.
The DASH Diet is another eating plan that is aimed at reducing blood pressure and can lead to weight loss. This diet encourages participants to eat healthy fats, complex carbs, lean protein, and lots of fruits and veggies while focusing on the limitation of sodium intake. The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean lifestyle, but it requires a lot more planning to avoid sodium and high fats in certain foods.
Ketogenic Diet (Keto Diet)
The Keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that has become very popular in recent years due to its ability to help people drop weight quickly. This weight loss diet encourages high amounts of fats, moderate protein intake, and extremely low amounts of carbohydrates. Studies have shown ketogenic diets are effective at helping promote fast weight loss especially when compared to low fat diets; however, the Keto diet doesn't discriminate against saturated fats, which can be detrimental to your heart health. Most experts acknowledge there are potential long-term risks related to the Keto diet unlike the Mediterranean Diet.
A vegan diet can also be called a lifestyle depending on the commitment of the individual. This plant-based diet is all about avoiding animal by-products and eating primarily plant-based foods. It is well-known for reducing our environmental impact through reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This plant-based diet is beneficial for weight loss because it likely reduces the amount of high calorie foods you may consume and replaces them with high-fiber alternatives. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to implement long term due to lack of protein in meals without meat or fish options and can also cause nutritional deficiencies due to the limitation of the diet. It also relies heavily on plant proteins which are harder to come by.
Whole30 is an elimination diet that involves avoiding certain foods that may cause inflammation and cravings over a 30-day period. The main goal of Whole30 is to introduce people to a lifestyle of eating only whole foods over a 30-day period in hopes that it will become a complete lifestyle change. Whole30 is very difficult to follow due to the food restrictions and how hard it can be to find suitable ingredients.
The Paleo diet is a popular diet in the weight loss world because it's all about eating like our ancestors did. Participants must only eat foods that were available and consumed by early humans during their time on earth which means no processed food, dairy products or added sugars. The Mediterranean Diet is more flexible than the Paleo diet and a lot easier to follow since there’s not as many food restrictions.
A flexitarian diet is a diet that allows a person to be a flexible vegetarian. This type of "flexible" diet means you can basically choose your own adventure and eat how much or little animal products you feel comfortable with, which is great for those who don't like the idea of giving up meat fully but still want to be vegetarian part of the time. But once again, the Mediterranean Diet is more flexible than the Flexitarian diet and a lot easier to follow since there’s not as many food restrictions.
Why the Mediterranean Diet is the Best Diet Going Into The New Year (2022)
Here at ModifyHealth, we have chosen to adopt the Mediterranean lifestyle as we head into 2022. We truly believe the best diet going into the new year focuses on adapting a healthier lifestyle and focusing on calorie intake (portion control), not just weight loss. We also believe the best diet should be turned into a full-on lifestyle instead of just a short-term solution.
Which leads us to select the Mediterranean Diet as the top healthy diet going into the new year due to its ability to lessen the chance of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. We also believe it is the best-balanced diet for life longevity and overall health based on scientific research
The Mediterranean Lifestyle is perfect for gradual, healthy weight loss. It has been proven to reduce the risk of abdominal obesity and shown to be as effective as a low-carb diet and more effective than a low-fat diet. It can also be paired with intermittent fasting to ensure fewer calories are consumed outside of the allotted time period. To read more about weight loss on the Mediterranean Diet, click here: Weight Loss On The Mediterranean Diet
Endless Health Benefits
The Mediterranean lifestyle is the best for overall health and wellbeing due to all of the vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and healthy fats. It has been shown to both prevent and manage various chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging.
The Mediterranean diet has also been found to improve physical functioning, general health, and vitality. It also helps you maintain a strong immune system, which is very important for fighting off foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria.
World Health Organization says the Mediterranean lifestyle is the number one diet for controlling and preventing non-communicable diseases, which is the number one cause for premature death. If that isn't a great reason for adopting this lifestyle then I don't know what is!
Mediterranean Diet Meals
Adopting the Mediterranean lifestyle may seem like an overwhelming task going into 2022, but ModifyHealth is here to make it easy for you! ModifyHealth's mission is to help you be proactive with your health using food as medicine.
ModifyHealth provides fully prepared, Mediterranean meals, which can be delivered to your front door on a weekly basis with free shipping.
Interested in seeing our delicious Mediterranean menu? Just click here: VIEW MENU
Written by Annie Guinane, RDN
Annie Guinane is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and serves as a certified nutrition support clinician at the University of Chicago Medicine. She completed her Bachelor of Science at the University of Dayton and is pursuing her Master of Science in Nutrition at Central Michigan University. Annie’s clinical expertise is in nutrition therapy for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and liver transplantation. Annie understands the importance of eating food that is not only healthful and healing, but also enjoyable and delicious. She provides customized nutrition advice along with the resources necessary to implement and sustain a balanced diet.