If you love Mediterranean food, you’ll be very happy to hear that there are several Health Benefits that come along with a Mediterranean Diet! A Mediterranean diet is full of whole grains, healthy fats and whole foods, and has been credited with some of the best health-giving properties in the world. Longevity, healthy levels of cholesterol, low occurrence of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers have all been attributed to the Mediterranean diet.
But on a diet that includes so many rich fats, how can this be? It’s time to forget everything you thought you knew about fats being the enemy of a healthy lifestyle and time to start thinking about the kinds of fats you’re eating. Instead of painting fat as the main culprit in an unhealthy lifestyle, think about what health benefits they might have and how they interact with the other foods you’re eating.
What is a Mediterranean Diet?
Let’s define what we mean by a Mediterranean diet. After all, it’s a big region and Mediterranean food can be interpreted in a number of ways. To put it simply, the Mediterranean diet consists mostly of unprocessed foods. There are lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fatty fish, nuts and crucially, extra virgin olive oil. There’s not very much red meat and very little added sugar, especially in beverages. The Mediterranean Diet emphasises on enjoying meals with family & friends, drinking red wine in moderation and getting plenty of exercise. It’s high in fibre, high in fats and very nutritionally dense.
Olive oil, the main fatty component of the Mediterranean diet, is characterised by containing monounsaturated fatty acids as well as by its high content in antioxidant agents. This oil exhibits numerous biological functions, which are beneficial for the health.
What’s the Difference between a Mediterranean Diet and a Western Diet?
A couple of big differences between the Mediterranean diet and the western diet is where protein and fats come from. Olive oil and other plant sources provide most of the fat in Mediterranean diets, whereas in western diets, the fat and protein are coming from animal sources. Western foods are often also packed with sugar and salt, making them almost addictively palatable, despite often being nutritionally poor.
What does all this mean? The main idea is to focus not on the fat but where the fat is coming from. Saturated fats from animal sources have been demonstrated to increase the risk of heart disease, whereas saturated fats from plant sources have actually been shown to provide protection against heart disease. And that high cholesterol we’re all so worried about? Animal fats are a huge contributor, whilst fats from extra virgin olive oil actually help reduce unhealthy cholesterol.
More and more studies are revealing that the Olive Oil can aid in reducing inflammation. Oleocanthal, found in olive oil, is one of the compounds responsible for olive oil’s anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Why are Fats Essential?
Fats are essential to the functioning of the body. Some nutrients are fat soluble, meaning without fats we can’t have them at all. For example, Vitamin E that is great for cell regeneration and can be found in extra virgin olive oil, is only soluble in fat. Your body relies on fats to transport it through the bloodstream so, in order to absorb and benefit from Vitamin E; you need to have it with a source of fat. Without fats, your brain wouldn’t work, your organs would be unprotected, you wouldn’t be able to regulate your body temperature and you would be unable to produce hormones. Fats are vital, and you deserve the very best ones.
Preliminary studies have even shown that increasing your intake of olive oil can help fight Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind that all research is at a fairly early stage and more understanding is needed, but here’s what we know. Alzheimer’s disease causes a build-up of plaques in brain cells, which contributes to brain damage. Olive oil contains substances that could remove these plaques.Your brain and nerves are mostly fats. Every nerve cell is coated in a myelin sheath, which protects the nerve and aids its function. That’s made of fat. Studies have shown that diets rich in olive oil can significantly improve brain function.
Moreover, on-going research is demonstrating that olive oil, a key component in the Mediterranean diet, helps prevent cancer. The oleic acid in olive oil is highly resistant to oxidation and has been shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. More and more people are electing to incorporate olive oil in their diets. Though it may be more expensive than most oils, its health benefits are too enticing and proven to just opt for a more affordable oil.
Top five benefits Extra Virgin Olive Oil or EVOO can give you;
- EVOO contains good fat, the monounsaturated fatty acids, which is believed to help with the prevention of, or is the ideal for people who are suffering from, cardiovascular diseases. Its active compounds can help lower blood pressure and prevent atherosclerosis. People in regions, like the Mediterranean, who regularly consume EVOO have lower mortality for cardiovascular diseases. A 2013 study concluded that supplementing diets with EVOO substantially reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events and is beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
- Regular intake of EVOO can reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. A 2017 study found that consuming 15 to 20 grams of EVOO decreased by 13%. The oleic acid contents promote glucose or sugar transport into the cells, which helps regulate or lower blood glucose.
- EVOO contains antioxidants, it can help with the prevention of cancer of inhibition of cancer cell proliferation that’s already in the human body. Oleocanthal is a component in EVOO that was found to cause death in cancerous cells. Researchers have found that oleocanthal stopped the spread of breast and prostate cancers cells, as well as myeloma cells. Oleic acid was also discovered by researchers from the University of Edinburgh to help prevent “cancer-causing genes from functioning in cells and may help to prevent cancer developing in the brain.”
- EVOO contains brain-protective antioxidants called polyphenols. These polyphenols protect neurons from injuries and can promote stronger memory and cognitive functions. In addition, it oleocanthal also plays a key role in suppressing inflammation not only to the brain, but in other areas of the body where in chronic inflammatory diseases may dwell as well including degenerative joint diseases, cancer, heart diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.
- EVOO also contains Vitamin E, which is essential in keeping your skin healthy and elastic. Whether consumed or applied to skin topically, it helps protect the skin from premature aging. Healthy skin also means healthy liver. Research showed that EVOO’s polyphenol protect the liver from oxidative stress.
The list of benefits to choosing a Mediterranean diet are endless, but we think if you only make one change to your dining table, it should be this: add extra virgin olive oil. Almost all of what makes the Mediterranean diet great can be found in a bottle of Zeitouna Olive Oil: Antioxidants, nutrients and healthy fats. The idea of adding fats to your diet sounds terrifying at first; after all, fats are the most calorie-dense food group.
Zeitouna Olive Oil is made from the finest, freshly picked olives, so all the fat-soluble nutrients from the fruit go straight into the bottle. So have we convinced you that swapping to a Mediterranean diet is the best and most delicious thing you can do for your health? Take a look at a few of our favourite recipes, straight from our own family kitchen and begin enjoying the benefits of Zeitouna Extra Virgin Oil!