Should we follow a Mediterranean diet?

Should we follow a Mediterranean diet?

We’ve known for quite some time that weight loss can reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. However, a healthy diet alone (without weight loss) may also help to reduce risk. In a recent Spanish study (published in the Annals of Internal Medicine), 3,541 men and women ages 55-80 at risk for diabetes were followed for an average of 4.1 years. Those who ate a diet rich in fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and olive oil were less likely to develop diabetes than those following other diets of similar caloric value.

This is interesting for a few reasons. First of all, it provides us with insight into the importance of what we eat (and not just how much we eat) for optimum health. When considering how to follow a Mediterranean diet, I think it might be easiest to focus on what is not on the menu, rather than what we need to add to our diet. Notice that the Mediterranean diet has very low sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and animal fat (with the exception of fish oil). This is not a low carb or low fat diet. It is a low glycemic-index and unprocessed food diet.

Secondly, calorie-restriction alone may not be the optimal way to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the past we have focused primarily on fat loss for diabetes prevention – through calorie restriction and exercise. We’ve often heard that “a calorie is a calorie” and that folks can lose weight effectively on a low-carb, low-fat, or high protein diet. While it’s true that studies have been equivocal regarding the most effective type of diet for weight loss, and people have been able to lose weight on everything from a bacon and grapefruit to a cookie diet, a deeper look suggests that certain diets really are healthier for us in the long run.

Thirdly, what we eat can have a profound effect on our health, and food is an easily modifiable risk factor for illness. Unlike many diseases and conditions (such as type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders) where we have little to no control over whether or not we contract them, it is exciting to know that a healthy diet is a powerful weapon against disease that does not rely on pharmaceutical products or medical interventions.

And finally, I found this study interesting because it confirms what I have noticed in my own life recently — that cutting out refined carbohydrates and sugars can have a very positive effect on body composition and overall health. I have always had a very difficult time with hunger during calorie restriction, and I finally realized that it had to do with being sensitive to blood sugar spikes and drops from too many refined carbs. Once I cut out all added sugars and white flours from my diet (replacing them with lean protein and whole grains) my chronic hunger resolved and I could settle in to a comfortable relationship with food without constantly battling the scale.

If you haven’t tried the Mediterranean diet, there’s no time like the present. While evidence suggests you’ll be healthier for it, my experience tells me you’ll feel a whole lot better too. Say goodbye to the food craving and hunger cycle, and hello to a new way of healthy eating that can be comfortably maintained for a lifetime.

Val Jones is founder and CEO, Better Health.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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  • Anthony D

    I have been following the Mediterranean diet for years. Plus. I’m an Italian-American, so its only natural for me!

    Try also the Japanese diet. Its also similar!

  • querywoman

    I digest meat better than I can certain beans and grains. I tend to do better with potatoes than I do wheat. However, I do need some bread to keep me full.
    I don’t eat eggs or milk. I do eat yogurt.
    I’d love to be a vegetarian, but I cannot.
    I do best on meat, potatoes, rice, some wheat, yogurt, cheese, fruit, and watery vegetables.

  • Judith Johnson

    In 1989 I was blessed to be a patient at the Shades of Hope eating disorder treatment center in Buffalo Gap, TX (made famous by Oprah a few years ago on her tv series about it). While there everyone ate a diet with NO refined carbs, NO sugar, 3 meals a day, walking 2 miles daily and no snacking. My cravings (which led to bulimic episodes) disappeared. My weight went from 140 to 108 and stayed there for three years after treatment. Since then (I was 30 then now I am 54) I have ONLY been able to lose weight and keep it off with this regimen: breakfast: 1 fruit, 1 protein (low fat if dairy) Lunch 2 cups of raw vegetable salad and 1 protein with yogurt dressing and dinner, 2 cups vegetables + 1 protein. This is 5 servings vegetables,3 proteins, low fat and low glycemic. After weight goal is reached 2 whole grain servings per day are added. If weight is regained you just go back to the no grain version. I have since recommended this diet to my diabetic patients and have seen their A1Cs go from 7 – 10 range down to below 7 within the next 3 to 6 months. The hard part for them is getting them to give up their sugar addiction. It is my belief that it is the refined carbs, sugar and GMO in the US diet that is causing the obesity and diabetic epidemic.

  • Judith Johnson

    Addendum to previous post: I am 61 inches tall and my BMI at 108 is 20.4

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