Olive oil, anyone?
The Mediterranean diet has staying power. Back in the 1950s, a social scientist published a study of certain Greeks’ eating habits, which found that the way they ate—lots of fresh produce, whole grains, and olive oil, with some healthy protein thrown in for good measure—could result in lower levels of cardiovascular issues and chronic disease.
Half a century ago, scores of books touting the Mediterranean diet hadn’t hit the shelves yet, but people in Mediterranean countries didn’t need them—they just cooked up some salmon, served it with greens and a bottle of red wine, and called it a day. These days, we’ve caught on. American culture is obsessed with diet, and we’re constantly funding studies to look into better eating habits; the latest, from U.S. News and World Report, found that the best overall diet is, indeed, the Mediterranean diet.
In an evaluation of 41 of the most popular diets, the report found that this way of eating results not only in better health, but often healthier weights. It’s not just eating that the countries along the Mediterranean Sea have on lock; they also tend to stay active, which helps with weight control and health in general (both physical and mental).
Much has been written about the specifics of the diet, which is perhaps less of a diet and more of a lifestyle, incorporating an attitude about eating well with other balanced viewpoints about exercise and portion size. In general, Mediterranean-ers partake in very little red meat, processed sugar, or saturated fat, sticking instead to lots of healthy fat, protein, and, of course, the aforementioned fruits and veggies.
With our country hitting what is being termed an “obesity epidemic,” with almost 40 percent of adult Americans qualifying as obese, a diet that encourages moderation without deprivation sounds way better than some of the other diets U.S. News and World Report analyzed. For example: The four diets that fell at the bottom of the rankings, all of which limit carbs and put the focus on high-protein or high-fat foods, including the Dukan diet, the Body Reset diet, the Whole30 diet, and the keto diet.
It should be said here, though, that “diets” are not everything. Personally, even the word “diet” puts a shiver down my spine. After years of trial and error, I’ve come to the conclusion that moderation (and listening to my body) is the best way of eating of them all. But that’s what works for me.
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, which is one of the most beautiful things about being human. To be told we should look a certain way misses the point entirely. Health, though, is paramount: We all want to live long lives. If the Mediterranean diet works for you, that’s cool. Even just adopting a few of its tenets—staying active, consuming healthy fats, avoiding processed carbs—could do a world of good.
[Editor’s Note: As ever, we are not doctors or medical know-it-alls. And everybody is different, so make sure to check with a doctor before trying anything new.]
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