What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

“The Mediterranean diet is associated with many health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and obesity,” explains Brookdale Director of Nutrition Sara Casey. Effectively, following the Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of suffering what the CDC identified as five of the top ten causes of death in America in 2011.

Although many stand to benefit from adhering to the Mediterranean diet, scientists say that seniors may be especially poised to benefit. “The Mediterranean diet helps meet the unique nutritional needs of older adults,” Casey elaborates. “This nutrient-dense diet provides fiber, vitamins, minerals like potassium, and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids while limiting sodium and saturated fat to help support health.” All in all, the Mediterranean diet may help you work toward being your healthiest you. If you want a diet that helps support an active mind and lifestyle, learn how you can benefit below.

How the Mediterranean Diet Works

If the Mediterranean diet were a medicine, its active ingredient would be antioxidants. But in order to understand how antioxidants are the hero of the Mediterranean diet, we must first understand its villain: oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is a phenomenon in which unstable oxygen molecules, better known as free radicals, ricochet around the body in an attempt to stabilize, leaving irreversibly damaged, dying cells in its wake. Oxidative stress is the reason apples turn brown after you cut them. To help keep your own cells from facing the same fate, antioxidants are here to save the day. Antioxidants stabilize free radicals so that your own precious cells do not have to. Foods rich in antioxidants include nuts, fruits and vegetables – ingredients that are pillars of the Mediterranean diet.

It is exactly these foods ample in antioxidants that can help make the Mediterranean diet an impactful lifestyle change for seniors. Casey explains, “Certain components of this diet pattern, especially whole grains, fruits, veggies and seafood, are important for helping support bone health, maintaining muscle mass, sustaining optimal gut function and keeping the brain healthy.”

Packed with fresh produce, the Mediterranean diet can be similarly nutritious as it is delicious. Read on to learn how you, too, can use the Mediterranean diet to help your body be its best.  

How You Can Do It Too

Because the Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle than a diet, there is no structured meal plan. However, here are a few items, courtesy of Healthline, to get your grocery list started.

  • Vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips and tomatoes
  • Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons and peaches
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond butter and peanut butter
  • Legumes like beans, peas, lentils, peanuts and chickpeas
  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat bread and pasta
  • Herbs and spices like garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper
  • Fish and seafood like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab and mussels
  • Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil

“Red meats and sweets are consumed sparingly,” advises Casey. “Chicken, eggs, cheese and yogurt, however, are eaten in moderation.”

Although the list of encouraged foods far outruns the list of restricted items in the Mediterranean diet, there are still a few additional essential items. “Other essential lifestyle components include physical activity, drinking lots of water and eating together,” says Casey.

Want to learn more about nutrition for seniors? Find out why seafood is so good for you.

The above content is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you have a medical condition. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.


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