The Mediterranean Diet: It’s Not Just the Food

While the exact mechanisms by which the components of this diet may improve cardiovascular health does require further research, the cumulative effects of higher fibre intake, antioxidants, healthy fats including the essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, protein and complex carbohydrates all appear to contribute to an overall reduction in inflammatory markers (hs-CRP, IL-6,7,18), oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, blood pressure, insulin resistance, blood glucose dysregulation, LDL, HDL, total cholesterol levels and body weight (3, 4, 6, 7).

Legumes, specifically beans are good sources of potassium and magnesium, which may help reduce BP (21, 22) and due to their low glycaemic load, they are likely to result in lower postprandial insulin levels, associated with lower salt retention and lower BP (23, 24).

So what’s different about the MD?

Unlike alot of mainstream diets and weight management programs, the MD is relatively simple to understand, there is no calorie counting or complicated macronutrient tracking but there is also not one single authority on what the MD actually includes and some people may find this frustrating.

It is important that we acknowledge that the benefits of the MD do not stem from the food alone. What we eat is certainly important but also how, when, where and with who we eat is also critically important.

It is easy to forget that regular physical exercise throughout the day and frequent social interactions like sharing meals with others are part of what keeps Mediterranean people so healthy.

Dan Buettner from the Blue Zones puts it nicely when describing the longest living people in the world; it’s not just the food that they eat but the company they keep and their perspectives on life that keep them well and good for far longer than most.

These lifestyle and perspective choices help reduce stress and anxiety levels which are known to have a negative effect on cardiovascular health (25).

Social interaction is the antidote to loneliness which has been associated with an increased risk of developing CVD, independently of traditional CVD risk factors (37). Imagine that one second; even on its own, loneliness and social isolation has the power to bring about heart attacks, strokes, and possible death as a result.

I believe that what we eat is super important in terms of building a healthy body and mind; it is the fuel to the machine so to speak. But if the machine is working too hard for too long, with no maintenance, love, or support to keep it running smoothly, it will eventually break down and stop working.

Unlike other machines, we only ever get one body so let’s do what we can to keep this magnificent machine we have been given running smoothly.

Yours in health and happiness,