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Healthy Living Blog

Information and inspiration to help you make a habit out of living healthy.


Fad Diet Dilemma: Mediterranean

Thursday, February 07, 2019

By , YMCA Registered Dietitian

The world of weight loss can be an overwhelming and confusing place. It seems like every day a new super supplement or quick fix fad diet is popping up promising to help you quickly shed unwanted weight.

While the ideal approach to weight loss is to aim for 1-2 pounds a week using a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, the temptation to subscribe to the next popular craze can be too much to ignore.

So, each month, we’re examining a different diet—diving into the science behind it, the pros, the cons—and letting you decide whether or not it’s worth trying.

Mediterranean magic?

This month we’re taking a closer look at the Mediterranean Diet. This one has been around for a while, and although it isn't popular as the Ketogenic diet we covered last month, it did receive the award for “Best Diet in 2019” from U.S. News & World Report.

Apparently, the people who reside along the Mediterranean Sea live almost 10 years longer than the average American, with a lifespan of around 89.4 years (80 years old in the U.S.). This shocking statistic led people to research what they’re doing differently and try to mimic it. Thus, the Mediterranean Diet was born.

It emphasizes eating primarily a plant-based diet, replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil, limiting red meat, drinking red wine in moderation, and getting plenty of exercise.

The Science

Numerous studies have confirmed the heart-health benefits of following this diet. This may be due in part to the focus on unsaturated fats. The difference between saturated (unhealthy) and unsaturated (healthy) fats is related to the type of bonds present in the hydrogen atoms of the fat.

An easy way to tell the difference though, is simply whether or not it is solid or liquid at room temperature. Think about the fat that is solid when sitting out on your countertop; it is solidly clogging your arteries. So, by focusing on a heavy use of good quality, unsaturated olive oil, you are promoting heart health.

This diet also includes drinking red wine (in moderation, of course). Red wine contains a chemical called resveratrol which may be linked to reducing your LDL (bad cholesterol) and preventing blood clots, which can lead to a stroke.

The Pros

  • The best part about this diet is that it doesn’t eliminate any food groups entirely and chooses to focus instead on a well-balanced approach. Diets that are really restrictive tend to get old fast.
  • Furthermore, this diet has a big emphasis on increasing fruit, vegetable, and whole grain intake, which are ideal recommendations for anyone trying to achieve total body health.
  • Finally, because this diet has been around for a while and has a lot of good research on the long-term benefits, you can rest assured you’re not simply following the latest fad.

The Cons

The diet is vague on exactly how much intake of each food group you should aim for, and instead uses terminology such as “low-to-moderate intake” or “often.” This can leave followers feeling a little lost trying to determine their daily meals. Someone who needs more guidance or strict rules might not do well with this diet, as it is more of a lifestyle change.

Additionally, the inclusion of red wine isn’t appropriate for everyone. While 1-2 glasses per day is considered healthy, that might not be the case for all people depending on certain medications or lifestyle practices.

Takeaways

Hopefully this breakdown helps you understand some of the ins and outs of this popular diet. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which approach to nutrition is right for you. Consulting with your doctor and/or a nutritionist can also help you find the healthiest, safest ways to lose weight and eat better.

Check back next month when we break down Intermittent Fasting and see what it’s all about.

Looking for more?

Learn more about healthy weight loss with 5 Calorie Counting Questions You Need the Right Answers To and The Biggest Mistakes Dieters Make. Or, come see us in person! The YMCA of Middle Tennessee offers Nutrition Counseling and Personal Training at many of our centers.

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Nashville, TN 37203
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