The Mediterranean diet, today, is a seal of quality: it is used to denote how healthy a food is. And the truth is that, in its beginning, everything that protected the Mediterranean diet is healthier, in general terms.
Now, however, the ambiguity of the term has allowed numerous products and habits that are far from the initial premise to slip. But we must not forget that the studies support what we called the Mediterranean diet in its origins.
Mediterranean diet, what is it and how does it appear?
The one known as the Mediterranean diet begins with the investigation of heart disease. At first, the Mediterranean diet appears as a consequence of these studies: the researchers They observed that in the Mediterranean environment, especially in Greece and Italy, there was a lower incidence of coronary heart disease.
The first hypothesis came alone: surely due to the diet. Indeed, the diet in this environment differed from other Europeans by having much more vegetables, quality oils, fruits, whole grains, legumes, potatoes, nuts and seeds. In turn, less animal products are consumed, with some fish, eggs and dairy products, but little red meat.Advertising
In just six decades, the term has been used in many contexts, referring to all types of products regardless of whether they can relate to the initial concept. Thus, bag fries, but with olive oil, Greek yogurts, but loaded with sugars, Maria cookies, but with palm oil, etc., are marked irresponsibly within "Mediterranean diet" products.
But, we insist, what is the Mediterranean diet? It is a type of nutritional pattern that advocates frugality, for consuming many more plant products than animals, which uses olive oil in its cooking and processing, but with moderation. And nothing more. Despite this, as we have seen, anyone appropriates the denomination, which is not legislated anywhere, creating confusion and generating ridiculous situations, sometimes.
PREDIMED, the scientific evidence
This is sad because the Mediterranean diet, as such, does have a good scientific basis. Specifically, let's talk about PREDIMED, the biggest research challenge on nutrition carried out in Spain. This started in 2013 and It is one of the greatest scientific efforts to evaluate the prevention of cardiovascular diseases through the Mediterranean diet.
It was attended by 7,447 people with a high cardiac risk and who were divided into three groups with three different diets: one with a Mediterranean diet plus an extra olive oil; another with a Mediterranean diet plus an extra nut; and a third party with a low fat diet for the control group.
The amount of calories was not restricted and physical activity was not increased in order to observe the effects of the diet itself. The experiment was carried out for several years and several conclusions were drawn from it. Among them, for example, that the Mediterranean diet helps reduce, at least, between 28 and 30% the combined risk of suffering a stroke, heart attack or death from cardiovascular disease.
There was also an interesting decrease in cholesterol, lower incidence of metabolic disease and numerous beneficial effects to combat the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. As if that were not enough, its effectiveness was also proven equal or superior to reduce weights and better control blood sugar and insulin levels.
How does the Mediterranean diet help us reduce weight?
And how does it help us lose weight? The reasons are numerous and complex: First, it is a diet with lots of plant fibers and lots of water, both related to the lower assimilation of fats and sugars and a loss of weight. Reducing the ultraprocessed and free sugar to eliminate it is a natural part of this type of diet
In addition, it also eliminates a large amount of animal fats. Vegetable oils and fats, as well as those that come from blue fish, are of high quality and are associated with a better metabolism of sugars and fats.
The protein contribution, coming from legumes, vegetables and fruit, accompanied by some dairy and eggs, is of great quality. The Mediterranean diet coincides in many ways with the DASH diet, which also has proven effectiveness in reducing heart disease and weight.
Flexitarianism, the rebranding of the Mediterranean diet
With the arrival of the healthy fashion of acquiring healthy habits, the need arises to adapt some knowledge. Just as the Mediterranean diet has served to revalue products that are not good for health, some have taken their basic values and made them something new. This is how flexitarianism is born.
Although we can go back to a different beginning, related to "flexible" veganism, the value of the Mediterranean diet is clearly in flexitarianism. This nutritional model consists of a mostly vegetarian diet but including animal products in a much smaller proportion. Or what is the same, add to the diet much more vegetables, quality oils, fruits, whole grains, legumes, potatoes, nuts and seeds while reducing animal products.
In other words, the Mediterranean diet we talked about from the start. It should be clarified that flexitarianism, like the Mediterranean diet, they have no senses for themselves, but within a context of healthy habits, which include increased physical activity.
There are also those who think that this type of food, taken on a global scale, could help solve some of the many problems facing humanity today: the excess production of animals, the incredible carbon footprint that it implies and the excessive waste of water.
In any case, it is clear that these types of diets, call them what we want, have proven benefits and a solid scientific basis to promote them. Of course, without forgetting that once the brand is made, even if involuntarily, there will be those who try to take advantage of it at the cost of their spirit, so it is better to be critical and informed.