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The Mediterranean Diet- What’s It All About?

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I have gotten several questions from clients lately about the Mediterranean diet.  Of all the diets out there, it seems there’s more research on the Mediterranean diet than perhaps any of the others.  

Let me be abundantly clear:  I whole-heartedly eat and promote a whole food vegan diet.  That has not changed!  

The purpose of this post, though, is to share what this diet is all about and the pros and cons surrounding it.  Although I believe a whole food vegan diet is best, I will say that, compared to the standard American diet (SAD), the Mediterranean food plan is a big step in the right direction.

What I love about it:

  • There is an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables and therefore has lots of fiber and a broad spectrum of nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, etc.
  • It’s primarily whole foods. Getting the processed food out of the diet is a great step for anyone.
  • It is lower in meat (as compared to most diets) and therefore low in saturated fat and would be a big step in the right direction for many people.  It is clear from research that animal protein (as opposed to plant protein) are associated with many causes of morbidity.1 

My concerns in regard to this diet:

  • It’s high in fat—as much as 40%!  It claims to be “heart healthy” because of the olive oil and yet a high fat diet is continually counterproductive to heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes.2  Of course, understand that the quality of fat makes a big difference, but still 40% is excessive for most people.
  • I know I’m in a minority here but there is much conflicting evidence about oils (even olive oil).  I believe it’s ideal to error on the side of getting fat from whole food sources rather than highly processed oils (even cold pressed extra virgin oils are still processed).  Although there are some benefits from small amounts of good quality oils, I have found it extremely difficult to find oils that test good and aren’t poorly processed or mixed with cheap rancid oils.  
  • Fish. Of course being vegan myself I see lots of reasons to avoid fish, but in this case I’m more concerned about the quality/safety.  In recent years our lakes and oceans have become increasingly polluted, making it more and more difficult to get safe-to-eat foods from the water (fish, seafood, etc.).  Everything from general pollution and boat motor oil/gas to larger scale radioactive fallout (Fukuashima) are causing the ocean life to be dramatically affected.  In 2016, authorities urged pregnant woman not to eat fish or sea food because of the potential dangers to the baby.3  It’s only gotten worse since then.  And that’s just the issues with wild caught fish.  Farm raised is even worse…
  • Dairy.  Dairy consumption is associated with so many health challenges, especially in terms of cardiovascular disease.4  Although this food plan doesn’t include a lot of dairy, I have found clinically that even small amounts can cause problems for many people.

Other info:

  • Alcohol, mainly in the form or red wine, is promoted on the Mediterranean diet.  Alcohol is one of those things that can be medicinal in moderation, but I find clinically that very few people can manage the moderation part.  If that’s you, I’d for sure avoid it all together.
  • On a lighter note, recognizing the craziness of people, here’s a concern that is less with the actual diet itself but more about the way people twist it… I know a lot of people who do their own version of this diet and just think it’s like eating at an Italian café.  LOL… Nothing but bread with oil, pasta and wine.  That version would for sure not be health promoting, but I am sure compliance would be high. ☺ 

As with any diet, of course there are ways to do it that might be better than others.  For example, this diet would be even better if people did a dairy-free version, used olives instead of olive oil (whole food instead of processed fat) or small amounts of good quality fresh olive oil, and also avoided fish.  Yeah, so pretty much a whole food vegan diet… Ha ha… They were close.

But all joking aside, if you are confused about the best way to eat to promote optimal health or reduce a certain condition you are contending with, we’d love to help.  New Hope Health exists to instill hope and help into the lives of those who are feeling trapped in their body.  You were created for radiant and abundant health.  Accept nothing less.  If you need support, call the clinic on more information to see if you would be a good fit for an initial consultation.  269-204-6525

Resource List:

1. Song M, Fung TT, Hu FB, et al. Association of animal and plant protein intake with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2016. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.4182

2. Prentice R. Long-term benefits of a low-fat diet. J Nutr. 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190904090302.htm.

3. MERCURY IN SEAFOOD: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Environ Work Gr. March 2016. https://www.ewg.org/research/us-fish-advice-may-expose-babies-too-much-mercury/executive-summary.

4. Chen M, Li Y, Sun Q, et al. Dairy fat and risk of cardiovascular disease in 3 cohorts of US adults1-3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.134460

Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease.  It does not take the place of a health care practitioner.  It is for educational purposes only.