The #1 Diet in 2019: Mediterranean Diet
To celebrate, May is International Mediterranean Diet Month! Did you know that this popular diet has been ranked consistently as the #1 or #2 diet in the past few years by U.S. News? Each year, public health and nutrition experts weigh in on the top diets that are “safe, relatively easy to follow, nutritious and effective for weight loss.”1 In addition to U.S. News, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 also highlight the “Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern” as one of three healthy eating patterns to help people choose foods that are healthful and enjoyable.2 Most recently, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems shared the need for a “global planetary health diet that is healthy for both people and planet.”3 As food demands are increasing along with population demands, which are projected to increase to 10 billion by 2050, it’s critical to learn how to utilize our diets as a solution to increase planetary health to support a more sustainable food system. The “Planetary Health Diet” aligns perfectly with the principles of the Mediterranean Diet.
What are the principles of the Mediterranean Diet?
The main principles of the Mediterranean Diet focus on consuming whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts like pistachios, and healthy fats such as olive oil, which are essential foods to enjoy every day. While not excluding other foods, the principles emphasize reduced or smaller portions of fish, seafood, dairy, eggs and poultry and infrequent amounts of red meats and sweets.4 The Planetary Health Diet is similar by emphasizing a plant-forward diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts with a recommendation of at least 50 grams of nuts per day.5 That’s almost two ounces of pistachios!
What about the health benefits?
In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers studied how effective it was to prevent cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean Diet with either olive oil or nuts and concluded that “the incidence of major cardiovascular events was lower among those assigned to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts than among those assigned to a reduced-fat diet.”6 Additionally, when compared to other nuts, pistachios are among the highest in protein and fiber as well as 12.5 grams of healthy fat, coming from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.7
On a broader scope, the Mediterranean Diet has been linked to other well researched health benefits in addition to improving heart disease, which include lower risks of certain cancers, lower levels of blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, better brain function, healthy weight and increased life span.
Globally, by adapting a plant-forward, “planetary health diet can reduce approximately 11 million premature adult deaths annually, effectively contributing to a 19-23% overall reduction in premature mortalities per year.”8 There are a multitude of benefits from increased personal health to planetary health by adopting a plant-forward Mediterranean Diet. To celebrate, you can start with simple swaps to incorporate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts at every meal.
There are a multitude of benefits from increased personal health to planetary health by adopting a plant-forward Mediterranean Diet. To celebrate, you can start with simple swaps to incorporate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts at every meal.
Pistachios are a nutrient rich in phytonutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamins, protein and fiber. A handful equates to 49 pistachios, richer and healthier than any other dried fruit. They are cholesterol free and contain only 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 12.5 grams of healthy fat, coming from monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. In addition, they contain a significant amount of potassium, 300 mg, and 6 grams of fiber.