Mediterranean Diet For Weight Loss (Indian Version)
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Every there is a discussion about the best diet for health and longevity, the Mediterranean diet is talked about. Over 3000 research papers have been published about the Mediterranean diet and its impact on chronic diseases.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a style of eating that is based on the traditional diets of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
This diet is known for its health benefits and has been studied extensively for its ability to improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the Mediterranean diet is primarily plant-based and includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fish and seafood are the main sources of protein, and small amounts of dairy, poultry and red meat are also consumed.
Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, and herbs and spices are used to flavour foods instead of salt. The diet is also known for its moderate consumption of red wine.
The Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of:
- heart disease,
- stroke rates, and
- certain cancers.
The diet is a pride to its region of origin and even recognised as a cultural heritage by UNESCO. Bold and liberal use of locally grown produce shapes a traditional Mediterranean dish, while cooking techniques and flavours are passed on through generations.
The Mediterranean diet is ranked as the top diet overall by U.S. News & World Report in its annual ranking of best diets. This ranking is based on factors such as healthiness, ease of following, and ability to help with weight loss.
Now it must be considered that the diet itself has evolved with time and globalisation. Even the people living in the region no longer eat like they used to. Thus, disease rates have begun to creep up by the year.
For instance, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of obesity in Italy, one of the Mediterranean regions, has increased in recent years. In the year 2000, the estimated prevalence of obesity in Italy was 8.5%. By 2016 alone, the prevalence of obesity in Italy had increased to 10.8%.
The good part of the Mediterranean Diet is that it is not one 'meal plan', but rather, a set of principles to follow while coming up with your own recipes. Thus, taking the principles, we can come up with an 'Indian' version of the Mediterranean Diet.
Let's first look at the benefits of this style of eating and understand the dietary principles before diving into the Indian Mediterranean Diet.
Why is the Mediterranean Diet so Famous?
The Mediterranean diet is famous for its disease-preventing effects. According to research conducted over several decades, this diet can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
One of the key reasons for the diet's health benefits is its emphasis on plant-based foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which can protect against chronic diseases.
Additionally, the Mediterranean diet is low in processed foods and added sugars, which are associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from sources such as olive oil, seeds, and nuts. These healthy fats can help reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol levels, which can lower the risk of heart disease.
The landmark Seven Countries Study, conducted by Ancel Keys really bought this diet to the limelight. The study conducted in the 1950s and 1960s, followed people from seven countries through a decade and found that the traditional Mediterranean diet was associated with a much lower risk of heart disease than the typical Western diet. In fact, the study found that the incidence of heart disease was about three times lower in Mediterranean countries than in Western countries.
In addition to its heart-protective effects, the Mediterranean diet has also been associated with a reduced risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, including breast and colorectal cancer.
Overall, the Mediterranean diet is famous for its health benefits and is widely recognised as one of the healthiest ways of eating. Its emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods and healthy fats can help protect against chronic diseases and promote long-term health.
The diet is also less restrictive that most other styles of eating, because it really allows the freedom to eat most things in moderation. So you can still enjoy your occasional glass of wine or two and eat bread and pasta.
What are some of the advantages of the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet has several advantages that can promote health and well-being. I personally really believe in making lifestyle changes along with nutritional changes for long- term health and well- being. Here is what I mean by lifestyle changes:
Here are some of the key advantages of this diet, according to scientific research:
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases: The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The diet's emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods and healthy fats can help protect against these conditions.
- Improved weight management: The Mediterranean diet can also support healthy weight management. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, research supports the use of the Mediterranean diet for long-term weight management, with the diet being effective in supporting weight loss.
- Rich in nutrients and plant compounds: The Mediterranean diet is rich in a variety of nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The diet is also high in plant compounds called polyphenols, which are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Polyphenols are antioxidants that can protect against cellular damage and inflammation, which are linked to chronic diseases.
- Improved cognitive function: The Mediterranean diet has been associated with improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline. The diet's emphasis on healthy fats and plant-based foods can support brain health.
- Reduced inflammation: The Mediterranean diet can help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of chronic diseases, and the anti-inflammatory effects of the diet can help protect against these conditions.
- Better gut health: The Mediterranean diet can also promote healthy gut function. The diet's emphasis on fiber-rich foods and probiotic-rich foods like fermented vegetables can support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Sustainable and enjoyable: The Mediterranean diet is a sustainable way of eating that emphasises whole, minimally processed foods and is rich in flavour and variety. This makes it an enjoyable way to eat that can be easily incorporated into daily life.
In summary, the Mediterranean diet is a healthy and sustainable way of eating that can provide a range of benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases, promoting healthy weight management, and supporting cognitive and gut health.
Its emphasis on nutrient-rich foods and plant compounds like polyphenols can support overall health and well-being.
What is the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid?
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is a visual representation of the Mediterranean diet, created by the non-profit organisation Oldways in 1993. The pyramid is based on the standard dietary patterns of the Mediterranean region, which are associated with health and longevity.
- The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid emphasises a plant-based eating pattern with a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and nuts.
- It also includes moderate fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy consumption and,
- limited consumption of red meat, sweets, and processed foods.
Physical activity and social connections are at the pyramid's base, essential for overall health and well-being.
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is a simple and effective tool for promoting the Mediterranean diet. It has since become a popular way of eating around the world and is often recommended by healthcare professionals as a healthy and sustainable dietary pattern.
Plant- Based Diet's VS The Mediterranean Diet.
I do see a lot of clients taking the 'moderation' clause not so seriously. It is important to note that the Mediterranean diet must be 90% plant- based and minimally processed. This would mean, that besides a glass of wine per day or less than a 100% of grass- fed meat per day, everything else in your diet is whole- plants.
So this would mean, it really is the high plant intake that is associated with lowered risk of diseases.
Plant-based diets have more plant-based compounds, which can confer health benefits. Polyphenol phytonutrients in plant foods are associated with lower risks of dying, while animal-based iron and heme iron can increase the risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease, respectively.
Overall, any diet that is rich in whole plant foods and low in animal fat consumption could be expected to confer protection against many of our leading killers.
While I personally promote a plant- based diet over a traditional Mediterranean diet, everyone really must find their own path. Working with clients, I do find teh complete elimination of meat being much easier to follow VS 'moderation'. Often times, we do not understand the word moderation well enough to adapt to the same.
Think about it, can you tell a smoker to reduce cigarette consumption only or ask an alcoholic to switch to beer to be able to quit finally? I personally believe that a plant- based diet works better in terms of compliance as it leaves no room for assumptions and choices.
What Are Some Of The Cons Of The Mediterranean Diet?
While the Mediterranean diet is generally considered a healthy dietary pattern, there are some potential drawbacks.
One common misconception about the Mediterranean diet is that it works primarily because of the high intake of olive oil. However, research suggests that the diet's benefits may be due to the emphasis on whole, plant-based foods and low intake of overall saturated fats. Olive oil itself plays little role in terms of the benefits of the diet.
Adherence to a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. However, some diet critics argue that it may only be optimal for some. For example, individuals with certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, may need to limit their intake of certain foods emphasised in the diet, such as nuts and legumes.
In addition, some versions of the Mediterranean diet may be high in calories and fat, mainly if they include large amounts of red meat or dairy products. Balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure is essential to maintain a healthy weight.
Overall, while the Mediterranean diet has been shown to have many health benefits, it is essential to consider individual needs and preferences when adopting a dietary pattern. The emphasis on whole, plant-based foods and limited intake of saturated fats is crucial to its health-promoting effects.
Does the Mediterranean diet work for weight loss?
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to support weight loss and weight management. It is essential to note that weight loss ultimately comes down to achieving a calorie deficit and making sustainable lifestyle changes. Here is what I mean by lifestyle changes:
While the Mediterranean diet emphasises healthy foods, overeating and consuming more calories than your body needs is still possible.
On the other hand, whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet is particularly effective for weight loss. This dietary pattern is naturally low in calories due to the high proportion of whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which are filling and satisfying while also being low in calories. Additionally, a WFPB diet is high in fibre, which can help reduce appetite and promote feelings of fullness.
A WFPB diet also tends to be rich in micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, which are essential for overall health and help support weight loss efforts. Because WFPB diets exclude or minimise animal products, they tend to be low in saturated fat, associated with weight gain and a range of chronic health conditions.
While the Mediterranean diet can be effective for weight loss, a WFPB diet may be an even better option due to its low-calorie density, high fibre content, and abundance of micronutrients.
Can you follow a Mediterranean diet with Indian food?
It is possible to follow a Mediterranean-style diet while consuming Indian food. The Mediterranean diet is not a specific set of recipes or a meal plans but rather a way of eating that emphasises whole, minimally processed foods, especially those that are plant-based.
This means that as long as one consumes a plant-rich diet with healthy fats, one can adopt a Mediterranean-style way of eating, even if they are not eating traditional Mediterranean dishes.
Research has shown that a plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can benefit overall health, reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A review of multiple studies published in the journal Nutrition found that following a Mediterranean-style diet can also help improve mood and cognitive function.
Moreover, research has also suggested that incorporating traditional Indian foods can benefit health, mainly due to their emphasis on plant-based ingredients and spices with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A study published in the Journal of Ethnic Foods found that traditional Indian foods like dal, sambar, and chutney are high in fibre, protein, and micronutrients essential for overall health.
A Mediterranean-style diet can be followed with Indian food as long as one consumes a plant-rich diet with healthy fats. This way of eating can offer numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic diseases and improved mood and cognitive function.
How to make the Mediterranean diet even more impactful?
The Mediterranean diet is already known to be very healthy and nutritious, but there are ways to make it even more impactful. Here are three essential things to include:
- Raw food consumption: Including raw fruits and vegetables is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, as these foods are packed with nutrients and enzymes that can support optimal health. Aiming to have 30-40% of your meals in raw foods can be an excellent way to increase your intake of these beneficial foods. Some examples of natural foods that you can include in your diet include fresh fruits, salads, smoothies, and raw vegetable dishes like sprout chaat etc.
- Include Nuts and seeds: They are excellent sources of healthy fats, fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are also rich in polyphenols, which can help protect your cells from damage. Adding nuts and seeds to your meals and snacks can boost your intake of these essential nutrients such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, and flaxseeds.
- Physical activity: While diet is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, physical activity can help improve cardiovascular health, maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and improve mood. As part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can include walking, biking, swimming, or hiking. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
While there is no single "perfect" diet for everyone, the Mediterranean diet provides a framework for healthy eating that can be adapted to many different cultures and lifestyles. By making minor changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can reap the many benefits of this delicious and nutritious way of eating.
Indian Mediterranean Meal Plan.
Nutrition plans have to be customised for clients. There is clearly no one- size- fit's- all when it comes to nutrition. Use the below chart as a guideline only with regard to the type of foods you must include on a day- to- day basis, and not as a fit- for- all diet chart. The below plan keeps the following principles of a Mediterranean diet in consideration:
- The diet is devoid of animal products.
- The diet is high in vegetables and fruits.
- Whole grains and lentils form the heart of the meal plan.
- The plan contains minimal to no processed and/ or hyper palatable foods.
- The diet is rich in healthy fats.
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