WHEN FOOD BECOMES MEDICINE: MANAGING CHRONIC DISEASES WITH THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

by Danielle Schaub
WHEN FOOD BECOMES MEDICINE: MANAGING CHRONIC DISEASES WITH THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

Named the Best Overall Diet in 2019, the Mediterranean Diet is buzzing in the trending wellness world. But it’s no newcomer to the space. It’s one of the oldest, most well-researched diets in history, with impressive data points that speak to its seemingly endless health benefits. 

Specifically, there’s extensive research surrounding the Mediterranean Diet’s ability to support heart, gut, and brain health. It also has potential game-changing benefits for those managing diabetes. 

Let’s dig into it … 

A HAPPY TICKER: HOW THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET SUPPORT HEART HEALTH 

Whether you have cardiovascular disease, are predisposed to it, or simply want to keep your heart in tip top shape, the Mediterranean Diet is the most highly recommended way of eating.

 The Mediterranean Diet is ideal for cardiovascular health because it is rich in healthy fats and low in harmful fats. Healthy fats come from plant-based foods, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish, which form the foundation of the Mediterranean Diet. These fats are unsaturated, so they lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL). Olive oil is mostly mono-unsaturated, while fish is primarily poly-unsaturated. 

These types of fats are also anti-inflammatory and can reduce blood clotting, which ultimately lowers the risk of a stroke or heart attack.  Studies have found that the Mediterranean Diet can reduce the incidence of heart disease by as much as 25%.   

Harmful fats come from red meat, high-fat dairy, and processed foods. Not coincidentally, these are the foods limited on the Mediterranean Diet.

These foods are high in saturated fats and trans fats, both of which raise bad cholesterol levels, cause inflammation, and increase the likelihood of blood clotting – the exact conditions for a heart attack or stroke.

TLDR: The Mediterranean Diet is heart-friendly. It’s high in healthy fats that protect the cardiovascular system and low in harmful fats that can lead to heart attack.

GETTING TO THE GUTS OF THE MATTER: HOW THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET SUPPORTS GUT HEALTH

The connection between our gut and overall health has gotten a lot more attention in recent years for good reason. Poor gut health is linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and irritable bowel disease (IBD). 

The gut suffers when the bacteria that lives there are the same type and not properly balanced – bacteria diversity is key. Over and over again, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to improve the composition, diversity and activity of the bacteria in our gut.

This is yet another way in which eating within the guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet acts to protect against heart disease and diabetes. The anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil and fish, the fiber from whole grains, and the polyphenols from red wine reduce systemic inflammation and reduce IBD and the risk of colon cancer.

TLDR: The Mediterranean Diet is good for the gut. A healthy gut is linked to a healthy body weight, less risk of heart disease and diabetes, and fewer gut-specific issues like IBD and colon cancer.

AGING AND THINKING: HOW THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET SUPPORTS BRAIN HEALTH

There is increased interest in the Mediterranean Diet’s effects on aging and cognitive function. Many age-related diseases are caused by the shortening of DNA pieces (called telomeres), which happens as a result of cell damage from stress and inflammation throughout a lifetime. 

The Mediterranean Diet is very high in antioxidants, which help fight cell damage and preserve telomere length. Studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean Diet have less dementia, Alzheimer’s, and general cognitive decline as they age.

TLDR:  The Mediterranean Diet is great for the brain. It may help us age healthier by slowing the natural damage to cells that occurs over time and leads to dementia, Alzheimer’s and general cognitive decline.

MANAGING DIABETES THROUGH NUTRITION: HOW THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET CAN HELP MANAGE, AND EVEN CURE TYPE 2 DIABETES.             

The Mediterranean Diet was also ranked the top diet for diabetes in 2019. It has been shown to improve glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in people with Type 2 diabetes. It can ultimately improve A1C values due to better control over time.

One reason the Mediterranean Diet is effective for people managing diabetes, is because the diet is high in fiber due to its heavy lean into fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Fiber improves both insulin sensitivity and pancreatic activity. 

The Mediterranean Diet is also effective diabetes management tool because it helps prevent weight gain. Studies have shown that because the diet is so easy to adopt for the long-term, it has a beneficial impact on maintaining a healthy body weight and prevents the further development of diabetes.

TLDR: The Mediterranean Diet is highly recommended for anyone with diabetes. It improves insulin sensitivity and A1C and prevents the further development of diabetes through maintenance of a healthy body weight.

TRANSITIONING TO A MEDITERRANEAN DIET HOW TERRITORY CAN SUPPORT

If you’re looking to clean up your heart, brain, and/or gut health, or need support managing diabetes, we’re eager to support your journey. Our local chefs prepare meals that fit the guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet each week, so not only do you get a break from the kitchen, but you have a wide selection of flavorful, incredibly delicious anti-inflammatory meals to choose from. 

Simply select the “Mediterranean Diet” filter on our menu, and you’ll find this week’s options. 

Have questions about how to use the Mediterranean Diet to support your health goals? Drop them below, or shoot us a note at nutrition@territoryfoods.com, we’d love to help!

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