There has been a great deal of research about diet, the great majority of which has emphasized the importance of fruits, vegetables and whole foods. The Mediterranean diet, based primarily on fruits, vegetables and fish, can be particularly health protective, helping everything from cardiovascular disease to depression.
Defining the Mediterranean diet can be challenging because there are approximately 16 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Diets vary between these countries as well as between regions within each country.
Differences in culture, ethnic background, religion, economy and agricultural production result in additional diet variations. Blended together, the common characteristics of the Mediterranean include the following:
- High consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Olive oil as an important monounsaturated fat source
- Dairy products, fish, eggs and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts, and little red meat is eaten
The Mediterranean diet is rich in plant-derived foods as well as healthy fats. Vegetables, fruits and nuts are all rich in phenols, flavonoids, isoflavonoids, phytosterols and phytic acid; essential bioactive compounds providing health benefits. Research has discovered that adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern increases intake of B vitamins and w-3 fatty acids. The following is a comprehensive list of medical and psychological disorders that can benefit from this type of diet:
- Cardiovascular health, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
This type of diet is rich in the nutrients that are critical for the regulation of mood by providing the necessary fiber and probiotics involved in proper digestion (if we don’t digest our food properly our bodies don’t utilize the nutrients we ingest) to the production of neurotransmitters that make us feel calm and happy. Processed food has been stripped of the enzymes and many of the nutrients necessary for good mental health.