Medbroadcast  Powered by MediResource

 Browse alphabetically
Family & Child Health
Men's Health
Women's Health
Seniors' Health
Ankylosing Spondylitis
Arthritis (Rheumatoid)
Atrial Fibrillation
Baby Health
Back Health
Bladder (Overactive)
Brain Health
Childhood Vaccinations
Crohn's & Colitis
Cold and Flu
Cosmetic Procedures
Depression NEW!
Digestive Health
Ear Health
Eating Disorders
Eye Health
Flu (Seasonal)
Healthy Skin
High Blood Pressure
Kidney Health
Low Testosterone NEW!
Lung Health
Medications and your Health
Mental Health
Multiple Sclerosis NEW!
Natural and Complementary Therapy
Oral Care
Osteoarthritis of the Knee NEW!
Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)
Seasonal Health
Sexual Health
Sleep Health
Stroke Risk Reduction
Weight Management
Workplace Health
Yeast Infection
All health channels

Ask an Expert
Clinical Trials
Find a Specialist
Health features

Condition Info Drug Info Tests and Procedures Natural Products Ask an Expert Support Groups Clinical Trials
Home Bookmark Page Send to a Friend Sante Chez Nous Subscribe
Nutrition > Diets and dietary habits > Benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Diet and active lifestyles
Diet and aging
Diet and disease
Diets and dietary habits
Food safety
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Nutrition Month
Summer eating
Supplements and nutraceuticals
What's hot
Research news
4 reasons you should chew more
7 holiday foods to savour - in moderation
7 reasons why oats are awesome
8 bad eating habits to break
Appetite vs. hunger
Nutritional benefits of berries
Bubble tea
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Butter or margarine - try neither
B vitamin complex quick facts
View All
Nutrition resources
Related channels
Health features
Health tools
Ask an Expert
Support groups
Related conditions
Natural products
Discussion forums
Quiz yourself

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

It seems every year a new crop of fad diets sprouts up almost out of nowhere. We are enticed to brush aside the bread, or stock up on grapefruits, or consume larger portions of red meat, or banish dairy to the dark recesses of our refrigerators. All of these types of diets promise results, but which ones really pay attention to our nutritional needs? And are these diets the quick fixes they promise to be?

As a nutritionist, I often encourage embracing lifestyle changes rather than focusing on the dreaded D-word. Adjusting your normal eating habits, even slightly, will have a greater lasting effect than severely limiting your overall food intake. That is one of the reasons why I appreciate the merits of the Mediterranean diet. Don't be confused by the word diet - the Mediterranean diet is really an enjoyable way of life.

Although dietary patterns do differ slightly between the 16 or so countries that ring the Mediterranean, several commonalities exist. The standard Mediterranean diet consists of a wide variety of breads and grains and a high daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Olive oil is embraced and dairy is consumed in moderation. Red meat is limited, while fresh fish is served at least once weekly. Nuts may be enjoyed by the handful and indulging in a glass or two of wine is divine, not sinful.

These tenets, on the surface, appear to reflect the recommendations found in Canada's Food Guide. Much like Canada's Food Guide, the Mediterranean diet is loaded with daily servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants - for instance, lycopene, routinely found in tomatoes - may protect against diseases such as coronary artery disease and cancer. Additionally, a staple of grains and cereals in both the Mediterranean diet and Canada's Food Guide provide a preferred source of energy and contain no unhealthy trans fats.

While these similarities are evident, they are not exact and the differences between the Mediterranean diet and the recommendations of Canada's Food Guide may demonstrate the health benefits associated with a diet that contains an overall higher fat percentage. Contrasting with the 1988 American Surgeon General's warning of the adverse health effects associated with diets containing a higher percentage of fat, the Mediterranean diet stands out as a paradox: How can a diet with a higher fat content be enjoyed by a population that is 20% less likely to die of coronary artery disease and one-third less likely to develop cancer than their North American counterparts?

The answer is the fact that the Mediterranean diet stresses the importance of what types of fat are consumed, not how much fat is consumed overall. Canada's Food Guide does not accentuate such a distinction between types of fat. The Mediterranean diet contains little saturated and trans fat (the fats known to raise blood cholesterol levels). Instead, the diet is rich in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, which has been proven to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Olive oil also lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Further, research indicates it may help prevent peptic ulcers and certain types of cancer.

Another factor limiting the amount of saturated fat in the Mediterranean diet is the sources of protein consumed. Unlike Canada's Food Guide, the Mediterranean diet separates servings of fish and the occasional handful of nuts from servings of red meat. By favouring fresh fish instead of red meat, the Mediterranean diet provides an advantageous amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fat.

An additional and enjoyable feature of the Mediterranean diet is the allowance of one 5 oz. glass of wine for women or two glasses of the same amount for men. Although excessive alcohol consumption poses dangerous health consequences, light intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Red wine, much like ASA (Aspirin®), acts to prevent blood clotting, and the flavonoids it contains have powerful antioxidant properties.

While the recommendations set forth by Canada's Food Guide effectively serve to educate Canadians about healthy food selections that help meet their individual dietary needs, the options provided by the Mediterranean diet can be a great supplement to healthy eating habits. By adapting some or all of these healthy and delicious choices into your current daily dietary patterns you can enjoy all the benefits the Mediterranean diet has to offer. So next time you are craving carbohydrates, pacify that guilty feeling by knowing that indulging in a small dish of pasta served in tomato sauce and drizzled with olive oil may increase your plasma antioxidant activity by a factor of 20. Add a glass of red wine and buon appetito!

Brennan Robertson, Hon. B.Sc. (Nutrition)

*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.


Did you find what you were looking for on our website? Please let us know.

Hot Topics - Bedwetting, Depression, Flu (Seasonal), Healthy Skin, Incontinence, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, Stroke Risk Reduction

Condition and disease information is written and reviewed by the MedBroadcast Clinical Team.

The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.
© 1996 - 2015 MediResource Inc. - MediResource reaches millions of Canadians each year.