Will You Live Longer on This Diet?

mediterranean diet
(Photo: Huffington Post)

If you're ready to kickstart your weight loss and dedication to a healthier life, then it may be time to check out the Mediterranean diet! Recent studies have revealed that this diet is packed full with health benefits and may actually prolong life! The Mediterranean diet focuses on incorporating southern European foods into our eating habits in order to promote the reduction of conditions like heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. This variable diet includes foods from places like Greece, Crete and Southern Italy.

So what makes the Mediterranean diet so special? Well for one thing, it defies a lot of the expectations that we hold when it comes to restrictive eating. Unlike a lot of popular diets, this one encourages the consumption of monounsaturated fats, which are most commonly found in plant-based liquids like olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil, and other foods like avocados, peanut butter, and most nuts. You know how experts constantly reference all those "healthy fats?" Yep, that's monounsaturated fats. The Mediterranean diet restricts the consumption of saturated fats, and recommends that we add more fibrous foods to our menus.

legumes
(Photo: Breaking Bread)

The Mediterranean diet includes a variety of foods that we wouldn't normally associate with a weight loss diet. The intent of this particular diet is to increase longevity and youthfulness for its participants, so cutting calories is not a primary focus here. The Mediterranean diet consists of a variety of fats, proteins, plants and legumes. The goal is that 25 percent to 30 percent of your daily intake consists of fat, where saturated fats make up less than eight percent of that total. Dairy is fairly limited to mostly cheese and yogurt, and high consumption of beans, seeds, nuts and cereals is encouraged. Fish and poultry are the primary sources of protein, although red meat is permitted in small amounts, and fresh fruit serves as dessert!

Since the mid '90s, the Mediterranean diet has been renowned as a veritable fountain of youth. Aside from its many benefits, such as reversing or limiting the effects of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and cognitive decline, it is believed that this diet can actually prolong our lives! A study at Harvard Medical School looked at connections between diet and cellular aging. They were specifically researching a part of the chromosome known as a telomere, which acts as a biomarker for aging. When a cell divides, the telomere shortens, which means that older people have shorter telomeres. People with certain cancers and diseases also possess shorter telomeres.

healthy older couple
(Photo: Pork Free Recipes)

However, when the participants of the study were asked to partake in the Mediterranean diet, rather than a Western diet, their telomeres did not shrink as quickly. In essence, they had slowed the process of aging! Experts believe that the Mediterranean diet, which is packed with essential antioxidants, actually reduces the inflammation and oxidative stress that our cells are typically exposed to when we are suffering from a disease like cancer, or when we adhere to a Western diet. This relief may actually produce a healthier, stronger telomere, which means that this diet may have the potential to extend our lifespan!

If you're interested in learning more about the benefits and nuances of the Mediterranean diet, please check out our sources here: American Heart Association, Forbes, Medical News Today