For decades now, the Mediterranean diet has been touted as one of the best lifestyle diets to ward off extra pounds and disease, such as lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes. However, the coastal diet has a few lesser-known women’s health benefits, as well.
Minimize Risk of Cancer
Cancer tends to have a lower incidence rate in Mediterranean countries, and there is increasing evidence that adherence to this coastal dietary pattern correlates with a reduced risk of several cancer types.
One of which is breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and is the second leading cause of death among women, making prevention more important than ever. According to research published online by the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2016, women whose eating habits closely resembled the Mediterranean diet less likely to get breast cancer than those who followed a low-fat diet.
Additionally, after combining the results of three large studies, researchers in Italy analyzed the eating patterns of over 5,000 women in Europe and found that those who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet were over 50 percent less likely to develop endometrial cancer. In addition, researchers found a strong correlation between the Mediterranean diet as a whole and risk of endometrial cancer, versus only adhering to single components of the diet.
Those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet typically eat more dairy than those who consume a more traditional Western diet. That may be a determining factor in why women who eat a Mediterranean diet are slightly less likely to suffer from hip fractures. The 16-year study published in the Journal of American Medical Association showed that women who adhered the most to the Mediterranean diet were .29 percent less likely to suffer from a hip fracture than women who did not adhere to the diet.
A colorful diet, like the foods in the Mediterranean diet, is not only pleasing to the eye but can also be beneficial for your eye health. The American Academy™ of Ophthalmology reports that Mediterranean diet staples like dark leafy greens, oranges, peppers and sweet potatoes are eye health superfoods due to their high antioxidant levels.
A recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association Ophthalmology also states that a Mediterranean-style diet might significantly reduce your risk of a major cause of blindness in older adults.
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 5,000 people, aged 55 and older, in the Netherlands and found that those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet were 41 percent less likely to develop late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than those who did not follow the diet. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans.
AMD causes loss of central vision, which is crucial in everyday activities such as driving, reading and writing. It affects 1.8 million Americans; however, that number is expected to rise to nearly 3 million by 2020.
Enhance Your Fertility
A healthy diet may be a great foundation for a healthy pregnancy, but did you know diet may also help your fertility? New research has found that women who follow a 'Mediterranean' diet in the six months before assisted reproductive treatment have a significantly better chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a live baby than women who did not.
That’s according to a 2018 study published in Human Reproduction. The study involved 244 women who were receiving fertility treatment at a clinic in Athens, Greece. Researchers asked women about their diet leading up to IVF and those who had adhered to a Mediterranean diet that was high in fresh vegetables, legumes, fish and fruit, and low on red meat, had a 65 to 68% increased likelihood of getting pregnant, compared with women who had the least adherence to this diet.
Additionally, a separate study by the same group suggests that men should also think about following a similar diet, since it could improve semen quality.
How to Live Mediterranean
Need some help kick-starting your Mediterranean diet? Try these five steps to incorporate more of the coastal diet’s essentials into your daily routine:
- Add a handful of nuts as a healthy snack. Try almonds, walnuts or pistachios which are packed with protein, fiber and omega-3s, but fewer saturated fats.
- Swap out your cooking oil with healthier alternatives like olive or avocado oil. Adding these oils to your salad instead of creamy dressings can be a simple and easy way to get in some healthy fats.
- Eat three to six ounces of fatty fish, like salmon or cod, up to three times a week.
- Increase your vegetable intake to at least two servings a day. Adding a drizzle of healthy oil can help you increase your healthy fat intake from tip #2 while also increasing your vegetable intake.
- Meet with a Texas Health nutritionist or dietitian to help you start your diet appropriately, make sure you’re getting a varied, healthy mix in your diet, and help you stay on track.
It’s Not Just About Food
While we’ve focused on the nutritional benefits of the diet, the foundation of the Mediterranean diet is based on movement and community. You know getting active is an important part of staying healthy but having a sense of community and an outlet for expression and support can be just as valuable. Something as simple as going on a walk with a friend or loved one can satisfy both the body and the soul.
Looking for more information about our nutrition services? Call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355) to learn about nutrition services offered at your closest Texas Health location.