With so many diets out there to choose from, it can be hard to know which ones are right for you. The Mediterranean diet is certainly a favorite among many food lovers, cooks, and even dietary experts. It’s often nutritious, with a large emphasis on flavorful foods rather than specific restrictions. This way of eating has been embraced not only by countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece and Italy, but around the world too. Also, it has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
As with many other diet variations, there will always be a few challenges that come along with the benefits. Some of these include the cost of following a meal plan filled with produce and seafood, the limitations of red meat, and added sugar. All diets come with a similar list of pros and cons, but what’s important is that you go into them knowing as much information as you can.
In order to know whether this diet would work for you, you’ll probably have to try it. What works for someone else might not work for you, and vice versa. You won’t know unless you try. So, if you’re looking at starting a Mediterranean diet, the following are some pros and cons to think about:
- Balanced, flavorful diet: Possibly the number one thing that people who take on the Mediterranean diet boast about are the flavorful meals they can have, while still maintaining a balanced and healthy diet. They can experience foods such as cold pressed olive oil, various nuts and grains, and vegetables that are rich in health benefits and flavor.
- Promotes cardiac health: There is strong scientific research out there on the connection between this diet and stronger cardiac heatlh. Even the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that following a Mediterranean diet can lead to a reduced risk of heart attacks, coronary heart disease, and overall mortality. Another study found the same results, insisting that subjects who followed “a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.”
- Possible diabetes prevention and management: Taking on the Mediterranean diet has also been linked to helping those with type 2 diabetes in achieving better blood sugar control. Between 1978 and 2016, there was a study that showed nearly 5,000 patients with type 2 diabetes insisting the Mediterranean diet helped them to lower their hemoglobin A1c levels by nearly 0.32% on average. As hemoglobin A1c is a reflection of the body’s blood sugar level control, for those who have type 2 diabetes, this small change could be very helpful.
- Weight management: It might seem strange to think that a diet that boasts calorically-dense olive oil and nuts can help with weight management. Many of these foods can help you to feel fuller for longer, while allegedly allowing for minimal weight gain. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet leads to similar rates of weight loss as low-carbohydrate diets. There are many benefits to the foods within the Mediterranean diet; Myrolion offers some additional information on the possible benefits of olive oil alone. This, mixed with other healthy ingredients, may prove a recipe for delicious success.
When looking for the right foods to include in your diet, make sure to do some research and become familiar with the kinds of cooking methods and food benefits that might help you. For example, have a look at the following video, explaining how to identify cold pressed olive oil:
- Cost: While there are no expensive brand products or supplements necessary, there are particular foods that still represent areas of concern in terms of cost. Foods like fish, nuts, and olive oil tend to be more expensive in general; especially if you’re buying fresh and organic, the price will always be higher.
- Challenging: Some people do find the restrictions quite challenging. The Mediterranean diet recommends reducing red meat and added sugar intake and those used to a more standard diet might struggle with this. Many people don’t even know the amount of added sugar in processed foods, so this can kind of be a good thing to start paying attention to these sugar levels in the foods you are buying. When it comes to red meat, you can look for unprocessed red meats and just minimize your portion size.
- Additional guidance: There is no set meal plan or base instructions for a diet such as this. You can find some guidance online, but especially for those with diabetes, additional information may be necessary. For a better understanding of the rules, and things such as your carbohydrate intake, you could seek help from your doctor or a dietitian.
- Alcohol intake: Many have raised concerns about the use of alcohol in cooking while following a Mediterranean diet—especially wine. This factor all comes down to how healthy you are in your day-to-day life, and how much alcohol you’re consuming. Most experts say that if you have a balanced diet and move daily, then this is nothing to be too concerned about. Only coupled with bad habits such as smoking, poor diet, or a lack of exercise, does it become a health issue. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests two drinks or less per day for men, and one drink or less per day for women, constitutes the appropriate consumption of alcohol. The most important thing to remember is to have everything in moderation.
The Mediterranean diet has its pulls and its drawbacks, but at the end of the day, it mainly comes down to how you choose to go about it. Many people appreciate the flexibility and creativity that comes with this diet, and while that’s a wonderful aspect, it’s important not to let this distract you from any health goals you may have. If you’re ever confused or unsure about your carbohydrate intake or the nutritional value of the foods that you’re consuming, make sure to speak to your doctor or a dietitian for more information. Overall, the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, but should be entered into with a full understanding of what it takes to make it work.