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The benefits of the Mediterranean diet For decades, the Mediterranean region has captured the attention of researchers because a significant proportion of …

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet

For decades, the Mediterranean region has captured the attention of researchers because a significant proportion of the local population lives in better health until old age. While daily movement and a strong sense of community certainly contributes to longevity, the Mediterranean diet itself is also a key contributor to healthy aging.

In fact, by practicing these five Mediterranean eating habits, you too can help tip the scales in favor of a long, healthy life, no matter where you live.

1. Base your diet on minimally processed foods.

The traditional Mediterranean diet developed before the era of fast food and microwave meals. Instead, this historic and treasured eating model offers dishes cooked from minimally processed, close to the earth ingredients. The more we learn about the science of nutrition, the more we see how this approach to eating can be good for our health as well.

Examples of minimally processed ingredients include whole grains (brown rice, oats, farro, quinoa), fruits and vegetables, nuts, and beans. Try starting your day with a warm bowl of oatmeal made from plain oats and sweetened with fresh fruit, instead of pre-packaged baked goods or sugary snack bars. For your afternoon snack, try a handful of unsalted almonds or cashews in place of crisps.

In a 2020 study, 886 participants aged 57 to 91 were analyzed to see the association between consumption of highly processed foods and telomere length. Longer telomeres are a marker of healthy aging because telomeres help protect our DNA. The results of the study showed that those who ate more highly processed foods were almost twice as likely to have short telomeres as those who ate less highly processed foods.

2. Choose whole grains.

Most of a grain’s nutrients and flavor are concentrated in the grain’s bran and germ, which are systematically removed when a grain is refined, such as in white flour.

An easy swap for health is choosing whole grains. In a traditional Mediterranean diet, whole grain foods like farro, bulgur, barley, and whole wheat pita bread are an important source of food. In fact, before the advent of steel roller milling in the late 19th century, most grains were consumed in their whole grain form out of necessity.

Try swapping your white bread for whole wheat bread, your mashed potatoes for whole grain pasta, or your side of white rice for a side of brown rice. When shopping, look for products that have the yellow whole grain stamp, indicating whole grain content, or look for phrases like 100% whole wheat or whole grain on the packages. Beware of words like “wheat”, “stone ground” or “multigrain”. These may indicate that the product contains whole grains, but they do not constitute a guarantee.

In a 2019 study, researchers assessed whole grain consumption and measured ‘successful aging’ (using social, lifestyle and medical indicators) in a group of 3,349 adults aged 50 or more. Those who ate the most whole grains (about seven servings per day) were significantly more likely to score higher on the “Successful Aging Index” than those who ate the least whole grains (about 1.5 servings per day). per day).

Those who ate the most whole grains were also less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Likewise, a 2018 meta-analysis of over a million people found that every 1 ounce daily serving of whole grains is linked to a 9% lower risk of total mortality.

3. Use olive oil instead of butter or lard.

When you close your eyes and imagine the Mediterranean diet, what is the first ingredient that comes to your mind?

For many of us, the answer is olive oil, a popular staple in all Mediterranean cuisines. With olive oil’s robust line of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats – aka “good fats” – and polyphenols (healthy plant compounds with antioxidant properties), it’s no surprise to learn that this nutritious oil can also have beneficial effects on aging.

Ready to start incorporating more olive oil into your diet? Brown your vegetables in olive oil, scramble your eggs in olive oil and replace your store-bought vinaigrettes with a homemade vinaigrette made up of two parts olive oil for one part lemon juice or of balsamic vinegar. Delicious!

In a 2020 study that followed more than 90,000 people for 24 years, those who ate more than half a tablespoon of olive oil per day had a 14% to 17% lower risk of heart disease. compared to people who did not eat olive oil. Scientists also found that replacing 5 grams per day (about 1 teaspoon) of butter, margarine, mayonnaise, or dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil was also linked to a reduction of 5 % to 7% risk of heart disease.

4. Eat nuts and seeds regularly.

Olive oil is not the only source of healthy fats in the Mediterranean diet. Nuts and seeds, including almonds, pistachios, walnuts and more, are also an important part of Mediterranean cuisine.

Put a small handful in your bag for a healthy snack when mid-afternoon hunger strikes. Add a pinch of chopped walnuts to Greek yogurt for your breakfast or to your lunch salad for a satisfying crunch. You can coat roasted vegetables or fish in crushed walnuts instead of breadcrumbs, like in this nutty crispy cod recipe.

In a 2019 study of over 4,000 adults, those who ate the most nuts had significantly higher cognitive function than those who ate a moderate amount of nuts, or no nuts at all. This association remained significant even after adjusting for overall lifestyle, socioeconomic status, and overall health status.

Likewise, in a 2018 study of 81,337 adults, those who consumed more protein from nuts and seeds were significantly less likely to die from heart disease than those who did not get as much protein from. nuts and seeds. On the other hand, those who consume more protein from animal sources have a higher risk of dying from heart disease.

5. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables daily.

From fragrant tomatoes and lush eggplants to sweet citrus fruits and more, the Mediterranean diet highlights delicious fruits and vegetables all year round. A fondness for fruits and vegetables can pay off down the road, as research repeatedly shows that fruits and vegetables are important parts of healthy aging.

Want to eat more fruits and vegetables? Throw a handful of spinach in your smoothie in the morning. Make cozy, decadently tasting soups from mashed butternut squash or carrots. Choose a piece of fruit for dessert, perhaps accompanied by a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt or a handful of chopped fresh mint leaves. Also, don’t forget that frozen vegetables are your friends. Keep your freezer fully stocked so you always have vegetables ready to go.

In a 2018 study of 27,842 people, those who ate more vegetables, fruits, and fruit juices were significantly less likely to have poor memory problems late in life, as measured by subjective cognitive function .

Another study found that those who shut down the most after a Mediterranean diet had significantly less A? accumulation over time, the fruits asserting themselves as a particularly beneficial food. (A? Are small pieces of protein that can build up in the brain, potentially creating plaques and causing brain cell destruction.)

When looking at specific fruits and vegetables, leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard can be especially beneficial. A study of nearly 1,000 older people in Chicago found that people who ate only one to two servings of leafy greens per day had the cognitive abilities of a person 11 years younger than those who did. did not eat it.

With these five eating habits in your rotation, you’ll be eating (and living) like a Mediterranean in no time. Let the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid guide you to healthy, minimally processed meals. Sharing delicious Mediterranean meals with friends and family may not only add more years to your life, but also, more importantly, more life to your years.

5 eating habits of the Mediterranean diet that promote healthy aging:

1. Base your diet on minimally processed foods.

2. Choose whole grains.

3. Use olive oil instead of butter or lard.

4. Eat nuts and seeds regularly.

5. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables daily.

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