When it comes to diets there are literally hundreds of types to choose from, mostly built around the billion dollar weight loss industry.
But what about those of us who just want to eat healthy? What are the key components of a healthy diet that will ensure us a long and disease free life?
Interestingly when it comes to this criteria, the evidence tends to narrow. I feel there are currently three ways of eating outside of the current hot topic of intermittent fasting, which I feel still needs more research. The three main diets are the Paleo, Vegetarian/Vegan and Mediterranean diets.
Firstly, the Paleo diet, is essentially eating the way we did back in the hunter-gatherer days, includes meats, fish, nuts, seeds and fruit and veg but excludes anything grain based along with processed sugars. While the science behind this diet is building I think Dr Staffan Lindeberg summarises the current state well when he wrote in the American Journal of Human Biology:
“Available evidence lends weak support in favour and little against the notion that lean meat, fish, vegetables, tubers, and fruit can be effective in the prevention and treatment of common Western diseases”.
When it comes to Vegetarian diets the evidence is much more compelling.
Large reviews of Vegetarians versus non-vegetarians show that there is around a 9-12% reduced risk of dying if you don’t eat meat. Interestingly it appears to be driven by reductions in heart disease, reducing your risk by about 16%. However, one particular study showed that Vegetarians who ate occasional fish reduced their risk of heart disease by 34% which may indicate that perhaps the “good fats” in fish enhances cardiovascular health.
Then we have the Mediterranean diet. Here, I feel is where the bulk of the evidence lay.
Very large studies have shown that those people who score highly on the Mediterranean way of eating reduce their risk of dying by around 20% which is twice that of the Vegetarian diet. One particular study showed a reduced risks of dying from heart disease of 37%. This is why I feel at present the Mediterranean diet has the most base of support for long term health. There are also numerous other benefits such as long term weight reduction, improvements in cholesterol, blood sugars and blood pressure, along with our mental health.
But while more and more people are becoming aware of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, I find many are unclear as to what actually constitutes, and no it’s not ample amounts of pasta! In my next blog I will look to break down this diet into it’s key components for your long term health.
If you want more information about this along with other ways we can keep you accountable to your health please register for our upcoming seminar at: www.informhealth.com/events/fess-up