Learn the Secret Benefits of Having a Vegetarian Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is largely based on the dietary habits of people in Greece, Italy, and Spain, which began in the 1940s and 1950s and was considered the diet of people having lower incomes. Biologist Ancel Keys and his wife chemist Margaret Keys researched the diet and lifestyle of the people in the 1970s. However, their findings did not receive recognition until the 1990s.

At that time, scientists conducted an extensive study and found that older adults living in these regions enjoyed admirable health well into their 90s and beyond. Since that time, the Mediterranean diet has been promoted as a means of lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cognitive problems, and malignancies.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The basics of the dietary habits include:

• A variety of brightly-colored fruits and vegetables including dark, leafy greens and non-starchy options
• Beans and legumes
• Olive oil, which is typically used for salad dressings, food preparation and on bread
• A variety of nuts and seeds
• Whole grains
• Cheeses, eggs, goat's milk, kefir, and yogurt
• Fresh fish or seafood twice each week
• Lean red meat weekly or on special occasions
• Herbs and spices for seasoning
• Salt restriction
• Water, coffee or tea
• A glass of red wine with meals

Notable Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Protects Cardiovascular Health

Cold pressed or extra-virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols in the form of oleic acid. The monounsaturated fat obtained from olive oil and oily fish has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides. The antioxidants in the oil and fresh produce also inhibit inflammation in addition to interfering with the free radicals that cause inflammation, cell damage, and death. Thus, the overall benefits greatly reduce the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease processes that lead to heart attack or stroke.

Weight Loss

The diet does not include processed foods that are typically high in saturated fat and sugar. Sweet foods are reserved for special occasions. Cravings are satisfied with fresh fruits. When combined with regular physical activity, the Mediterranean diet enables people to effectively lose and maintain a healthier weight. The fiber and protein-rich foods of the diet ensure satiety for longer periods of time, which reduces meal cravings that often lead to unnecessary weight gain.

Diabetes Prevention or Reversal The anti-inflammatory effects of the low-fat diet have been shown to help maintain a healthier weight. The total number of health benefits of the Mediterranean diet has the ability to provide enhanced blood sugar control without the need for medical interventions. Apple Cider Vinegar can also help prevent diabetes?

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the diet inhibit the development of malignant cells by ensuring that DNA remains healthy in addition to preventing the physiological factors that encourage abnormal cell growth.

Cognitive Health The monounsaturated fats found in the diet help protect nerve tissue, which promotes cognitive function. The nutrients, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of the foods recommended by the Mediterranean diet also interfere with the processes that contribute to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

How to Adapt the Mediterranean Diet for Vegetarian Eating

Vegetarians can eliminate meat, fish, seafood and poultry recommendations from the Mediterranean diet. Obtain protein sources from unsalted nuts, legumes, and tofu. Some may include dairy products and eggs to maintain protein needs. Beans contain the amino acid lysine, which lowers cholesterol and helps control blood glucose.

Ygal Sharoni, the owner of Parsley Modern Mediterranean restaurant in Las Vegas, says “There are so many vegetarian options in the Mediterranean diet. Many of our vegetarian customers order falafel instead of beef or steak because it contains high-quality protein and is also very filling.”

The loss of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood must be exchanged for flaxseed and walnuts along with canola, olive and soy oils. Other options include leafy green vegetables, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Olive oil is a rich source of much-needed phytonutrients and aids in the absorption of various healthful compounds. Some might consider taking supplements containing DHA and EPA, which are the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish.

Iron deficiency is common in vegetarian diets. However, the Mediterranean diet corrects the problem when green leafy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are consumed regularly. Combining these foods with others offering a rich source of vitamin C, which enhances iron absorption from plant sources.

The Complete Mediterranean Lifestyle

The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle choice that does not require counting calories or specifying food groups. The list of food is very common and affordable. The Mediterranean people have various cultural and economic traditions in addition to their dietary habits that contribute to healthy longevity.

The economy influences many to care for personal gardens, which gives them access to a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Living along the coast provides an abundant supply of fresh fish. Raising poultry or other domestic livestock enables them to have a limited amount of lean meat. Older adults remain active by walking or riding a bike to go from one location to another. Families and friends commonly dine together and partake in local social events.