The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. It has been proven to lower risks for many chronic diseases. This is because it allows a person to eat more whole foods. The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of unprocessed foods. Lean protein, healthy fats and plant-based foods are central to the diet.
Choosing this diet does require a lot of discipline and dedication. But, no worries! It will be worth the effort because the Mediterranean diet provides seniors with numerous health benefits.
Check out this list of Mediterranean Diet benefits:
Healthy weight loss
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet helps seniors maintain healthy weight. Losing weight in a healthy way is also possible with the Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet provides seniors with lots of fiber and protein that keeps them fuller longer. This is just one of the many reasons why MD helps healthy weight loss. Studies also show that older adults who lost as much as 22 pounds were able to keep it off even after one year. These study findings were published in the American Journal of Medicine. In a separate study, older adults aged 55 – 80 years old not only lost weight by adhering to this diet. They were also found to have gained less fat in their midsection. The results from this study were published in the Lancet.
Helps with cancer prevention
The Mediterranean diet requires people to load up more on fresh produce. And, numerous studies have already proven that a plant-based diet helps lower cancer risk. Fruits and vegetables contain a plethora of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients help seniors have better fighting stance against cancer.Results from studies suggest that a Mediterranean diet provides significant protection from cancer. It also reduces risk for cancer and overall mortality. Nutrition obtained from this type of diet was found to help suppress the growth of cancer cells. The active compounds from foods that make up this diet also helps induce cancer cell death. Besides, the regular use of extra virgin oil provides phenolic compounds that show strong chemo-preventive effects. Loading up on fruits and vegetables can have strong protective effects against cancer. This is due to the abundance of flavonoids that inhibits inflammation. These flavonoids were also found to have strong antioxidant effects.
Leads to better heart health
Regular consumption of plant-based foods help in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels among seniors. A Lyon Heart Study examined more than 600 patients who had a history of myocardial infarction. These patients who served as study respondents were aged 55-80 years old. The study showed that Mediterranean diet lowers risk for recurrent heart disease for as much as 70 percent. Another study was conducted by CARDIO2000 investigators which had 848 participants. These participants were middle aged and older adults who had unstable angina and myocardial infarction. The results showed that following a Mediterranean diet lowers their risk for acute coronary syndrome.
Lowers risk for diabetes
Seniors are more at risk of being diagnosed with diabetes than the younger population. Higher consumption of plant based foods can help a senior better manage his blood sugar level.
A study which had more than three thousand participants showed that Mediterranean diet lowers risk for diabetes. This study had participants aged 55-80 years old. After more than four years, the participants showed lowered risk for diabetes for as much as 40 percent. In this study the control group were asked to limit all types of fat. But, none of them were asked to improve their physical activity. No group was also asked to restrict their calorie intake. In other words, the lowered risk manifested was solely due to healthy dietary eating patterns.
Since the Mediterranean diet recommends consumption of healthy fats, seniors are more likely to experience satiety. This keeps them feeling fuller for a longer period of time. In turn, they are less likely to crave for more calories. Plus, this diet also limits your intake of added sugars. All these things make a senior less prone to developing the symptoms of insulin resistance.
Helps prevent Alzheimer’s
In one study, 447 healthy participants aged 55-80 years old found that those who adhered to Mediterranean diet had stronger memory function. In this study, participants were divided into three groups. The first group had the Mediterranean diet with added mixed nuts. The second group had Mediterranean diet with added olive oil every day. The third group had low-fat diet. These study participants were followed by the researchers for more than four years.
The stronger cognitive function among Mediterranean dieters are attributed to the fact that such diet is loaded with antioxidants. The MD is also rich in anti-inflammatory agents from foods such as nuts and olive oil. These phenolic compounds work best in combating the oxidative process that take place in the brain. Thus, neurodegeneration is staved off.
A study showed that people who followed a Mediterranean diet lowered their risk for Alzheimer’s for as much as 40 percent. This study lasted for four years and had more than two thousand participants. Those who had partial adherence to Mediterranean diet only lowered their risk for 15 percent.The results of this study was published in the Annals of Neurology.
In a separate study, experts found out that a Mediterranean diet also helps prevent the progression of mild cognitive impairment. The more that a senior adheres to this type of diet, the less likely he will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For seniors already having MCI, they lowered their risk for Alzheimer’s for 48 percent of strict adherence to the diet. Those who only had moderate adherence were only able to lower their risk of Alzheimer’s for 45 percent. This study lasted for four years.
Boosts liver health
One study revealed that a Mediterranean diet can help lower one’s risk for fatty liver disease. The said study had older and middle-aged adults as participants. Adhering to a healthy diet such as Mediterranean is very important especially to people who are genetically predisposed to having Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. For six years, the results from this study showed that hepatic fat accumulation reduced significantly. It also prevents the onset of NAFLD for as much as 26 percent.
Losing weight through healthy diet is highly recommended for people with NAFLD. Adherence to healthy eating habits such as the Mediterranean diet can have positive impacts on NAFLD. It not only reduces fat accumulation. It also lowers the severity of NAFLD among middle aged and older adults.
Making that Switch to Mediterranean Diet: Helpful Tips for Seniors
If you are worried about drastically changing your dietary pattern don’t be. There are ways to slowly ease yourself into this kind of diet. Check out the following tips.
Load up on vegetables.
Imagine holding a plate filled with brightly colored vegetables. They not only look great. But, they also taste so delicious! Not to mention the plethora of nutrients that you can get from these vegetables. These colorful veggies pack a heavy punch of anthocyanins. These anthocyanins are flavonoids that help improve cognitive function and memory in older adults. These flavonoids also work wonders in preventing bone loss and brain degeneration.
Vegetables are also powerhouses of fiber. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies suggests that men aged 50 and older must consume at least 30 grams of fiber each day. Women of the same age are advised to consume at least 21 grams of fiber per day. This amount is not difficult to obtain if you load up on veggies everyday. Fiber is beneficial for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. High intake of fiber helps ward off colorectal cancer, constipation and hemorrhoids.
Never skip breakfast.
Remember that Mediterranean is more of a lifestyle than a diet and breakfast is an important part of it. Make sure to prepare your whole grain and fiber-filled breakfast every day. Don’t worry, with Mediterranean diet you will never run out of breakfast options. One small tortilla or a slice of whole wheat bread would mean an ounce of grains. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reveals that a 70-year old woman would need to consume 5 ounces of grains every day. Men with the same age should consume 6 ounces of grains. And, whole grains are better because they contain lots of fiber. Seniors must steer clear from refined grains especially if they’re diabetic as these can only cause spikes in blood sugar.
Start loving seafood.
The Mediterranean diet recommends that people eat seafood at least two times a week. This is one good way for you to obtain your much needed omega 3 fatty acids. These omega 3s help older adults prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, these omega 3s also protect seniors against the risks of macular degeneration. Besides, it also reduces the inflammatory reaction in the body and reduced inflammatory reaction would mean great relief for seniors with rheumatoid arthritis. So, how about a salmon fillet, with salt and pepper and pan seared with a few capers? Don’t forget to garnish them with a few slices of lemon, please!
Set a meatless day once a week.
This is the day when you will forego eating meat. Your meatless day will be a day of whole grains, vegetables and beans. Try spiced lentil tacos or peppered cauliflower rice with stir-fried vegetables. You can even have oatmeal pancakes or an avocado radish salad. These are just few of the many ways to enjoy the healthy goodness of Mediterranean diet. Note that vegetarian refried beans can serve as delicious substitutes for meat. These are perfect for your tacos and burritos. Add excitement to your meatless days with recipes such as Mediterranean Millet or Greek Rice Stuffed Peppers.
Limit your intake of dairy products.
If you want to eat a dairy product, always opt for the healthier option. Older adults also need to eat enough of dairy to help them avoid bone thinning. Dairy food products are rich in calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamins A and D. These nutrients help seniors lower their blood pressure. It also reduces their risk for stroke, cancer and heart disease. But, always opt for those that are labeled with reduced-fat. Keep in mind that you need to limit your intake of saturated fats. Go for reduced-fat yogurt, milk and cheese. Unsweetened calcium fortified almond milk and soy yogurt are also wonderful additions to your daily diet.
Snack on fruits.
Eating strawberries, blueberries, apples and grapes is such a healthy way to snack. Forget about ice cream, sodas and donuts. You need to be healthy as you age! Besides, a study revealed that increased intake of fruits and vegetables help seniors lower their risk for Osteoporosis. If Greek salads no longer look so appealing to you, do not hesitate to try other fruit recipes. Honey Lime Fruit Salad is one good example that’s easy to prepare. Just mixed strawberries, blueberries and bananas with lime juice and honey. Then, sprinkle some pine nuts and your snack time will cease to be boring!
Always opt for the good fats.
Avocados, olive oil, sunflower seeds and olives are excellent sources of healthy fats. Make sure to have these rather than consuming unhealthy fats. Experts recommend that older adults must obtain up to 35 percent of their caloric intake from good fats. A 70-year-old man must limit his daily fat intake for up to 6 teaspoons of oil and fats. Women of the same age must consume not more than 5 teaspoons of these oils and fats everyday.
The best thing about a Mediterranean diet is that you don’t have to be an expert in reading nutritional labels. This is because you will be eating more of whole foods. For seniors who are just starting to adopt a Mediterranean diet, here are some helpful resources:
AgeRight.org – This site gives you all the information you need about Mediterranean diet. If you are not sure what’s best for dinner or snacks, visit this site.In this website you can also find information such as what spices to use to boost brain power.
Oldways – Here you can find information about the common foods and flavors that you can include in Mediterranean diet. Menus and tips on how to get started can also be read on this site.
The Mediterranean Dish – Check this website for more great menus and dishes that are purely Mediterranean.
Mayoclinic – Get access to different recipes for your main dishes, desserts, salads, etc that are all Mediterranean.