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Why You Should Eat the Mediterranean Way

People who eat the Mediterranean way are less likely to die prematurely, have heart attacks or develop diabetes. Vegetables, fish and olive oil are good for you.

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a number of health benefits. We have written previously about studies showing that a Mediterranean-style eating plan can protect the brain, reduce arthritis pain, lower the likelihood of a heart attack and improve the chance of success with in-vitro fertilization. Research from the University of Navarra in Spain confirms that people who eat the Mediterranean way are healthier (Carlos et al, Nutrients, March 31, 2018). A traditional Mediterranean-style diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and fish. People eating a Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) use olive oil as their primary fat and consume wine in moderation, with meals. They eat only small amounts of dairy products, meat and sweets.

This is not a randomized controlled trial like the PREDIMED study was. Instead, it followed people who graduated from the University every year since 1999. They provided information on their health, lifestyles and eating patterns. More than 22,000 individuals participated over two decades. Because all of the participants are university graduates, the scientists controlled for educational and economic diversity.

If You Eat the Mediterranean Way, What Are the Health Benefits?

Those who followed eating patterns that most closely resembled a classic Mediterranean diet were less likely to die from any cause during the study. They were also less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. They had lower average heart rates and were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Even those who were overweight appeared to be somewhat protected from the risk of diabetes if they followed a Mediterranean eating pattern closely.

Moreover, people sticking to the MedDiet were less likely to report depression. Physical and social activity that are also typical of a Mediterranean lifestyle were also protective for both physical and mental health problems.

PREDIMED Findings Tout Tomatoes for Better Blood Pressure:

As we mentioned, the main PREDIMED study was a randomized controlled trial comparing three different diets. One was a low-fat American-style heart healthy diet. Another was a Mediterranean-type diet with extra olive oil. And for the third, people ate the Mediterranean way but consumed additional nuts. Both Mediterranean diets cut cardiovascular risk factors significantly.

Researchers have now analyzed more data that they collected from the PREDIMED participants (European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Nov. 24, 2023). This three-year controlled trial included more than 7,000 older volunteers with multiple cardiac risk factors, including hypertension. During the study, investigators measured tomato consumption among various groups. They found that people who consumed the most tomato-based foods had substantially lower blood pressure. This portion of the study was up to the individual participants, rather than controlled by the study protocol.

Their conclusion:

“Tomato consumption, including tomato-based products, is beneficial in preventing and managing hypertension.”

Learn More:

Would you like to learn to eat the Mediterranean way? You can find out more about how to do this in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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