The Mediterranean Diet is in the news. A Spanish study showed that people at risk for heart disease eating a Mediterranean diet were 30% less likely to die of cardio-vascular disease than the control group who ate a standard low-fat diet. It is interesting to note that group who ate the Mediterranean Diet added extra helpings of extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts.
The Mediterranean Diet in this study the Mediterranean diet is composed of plant-based foods: olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, legumes, and cereals. Along with some animal based products like fish and poultry, and limited amounts of dairy products, red meat and processed meats,. And just for fun wine and chocolate are allowed.
The study has been reported by every major news outlet and has created a small controversy. The controversy has made interesting reading. Proponents of a low fat plant-based diet like T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn and John McDougall were vocal in stating that fat is bad, even olive oil and nuts. The bottom line is that they believe that you can prevent and reverse heart disease by eating a low-fat plant-based diet. So to them a 30% risk reduction isn’t good enough.
The interesting factoid for me, however is this:
The participants stayed with the Mediterranean diet, the investigators reported. But those assigned to a low-fat diet did not lower their fat intake very much. So the study wound up comparing the usual modern diet, with its regular consumption of red meat, sodas and commercial baked goods, with a diet that shunned all that.
Just maybe what this study shows is not so much about reducing heart disease death as much as finding a diet that people will stick with. Something varied and tasty that provides the body with lots of plant-based foods and less animal-based foods is a diet that people will stick to.
I believe that a Mediterranean diet is the easiest way for most people to start eating more plant-based foods. The food is familiar and comforting. I mean how can you beat garlic, tomatoes, pasta combined with greens like spinach and broccoli? Once you have begun that way of eating deciding to throw in a “Meatless Monday” starts looking easier.
Eventually you may want to transition to eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian or even becoming vegan. You may decided to cut back on Mediterranean approved fats or even experiment with raw food once in a while. No matter what you decide, changing to the Mediterranean is the first step to more healthy eating.