The continuous increase in the rate of overweight and obese individuals necessitates the finding of an effective solution against obesity and its related problems such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Constantly new diets appear, that promise fast and impressive results, leading the world in exhausting procedures with immediate but temporary results, which often exacerbate the problem. Multiple studies examine the most appropriate and effective dietary regimen for weight loss, but also for the long term maintenance. The Mediterranean diet has also been tested extensively and has been found effective in the prevention and treatment of obesity.
Characteristics of the Mediterranean diet:
Before analyzing the benefits of the Mediterranean diet on weight loss and obesity prevention, let’s remember its main characteristics.
- Carbohydrates should be the main source of energy during the day. We prefer the consumption of complex carbohydrates that contribute to better regulation of blood sugar levels. This group includes bread, cereal, oats, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, and bulgur. Of course always prefer whole grain products that are rich in dietary fiber.
- Increased consumption of fruits. We need three to four servings per day. It is a food group very rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants.
- Increased consumption of vegetables. Vegetables are a basic source of fiber for the body. We have to consume vegetables with every meal. Always prefer seasonal vegetables and use them raw, boiled or roasted.
- Increased consumption of legumes. Also rich in fiber and plant-based protein, are a key feature of the Mediterranean cuisine. We can prepare them as a main meal or as salad.
- Consumption of white meat over red. Prefer poultry and fish. Fish, ideally consumed twice per week, as they are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Red meat is used a few times per month because of the increased content of animal fat.
- Regular consumption of dairy products, but with attention to their fat content.
- Increased content of monounsaturated fatty acids. The high ratio of monounsaturated fatty acids over saturated is a main characteristic of the Mediterranean diet. This is the reason that the specific diet recommends daily use of olive oil in salads and other dishes.
- Finally, moderate consumption of red wine, which because of flavonoids, has strong antioxidant effect and proven beneficial action on cardiovascular system.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet:
There are several studies concluding that adherence to the Mediterranean diet can lead to weight loss or to prevent weight gain. Of course there are physiological explanations for how the key elements of the Mediterranean diet may be protective against weight gain. The Mediterranean diet is rich in foods of plant origin, which provide an increased percentage of fiber in the body. Dietary fiber has been found to increase the feeling of satiety, through prolonged mastication, increased gastric distension and increased cholecystokinin release. Therefore, the portion of food being consumed is smaller and energy balance easily maintains stable.
Additional key factor in weight gain is the energy density of the food we consume. Foods with high caloric value, which are usually more palatable, do not help regulate appetite and hunger, leading to overeating and of course weight gain.
In contrast, the Mediterranean diet has a low energy density and relatively low glycemic load, compared to other diets, facilitating the feeling of satiety and thus preventing weight gain. Respective characteristics can also be found in a low-fat diet, however, the Mediterranean diet has some key features that differentiate it.
First of all, the recommended ratio of fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet is low in saturated and trans fatty acids, which are responsible for increasing cholesterol, and high in monounsaturated fat such as oleic acid of olive oil, which is proven to have significant health benefits. Considered that improves insulin sensitivity, it results in the regulation of blood sugar and insulin levels. Olive oil is therefore a basic component of the Mediterranean diet. It is very rich in antioxidants helping to strengthen health. Simultaneously it gives flavour to dishes of Mediterranean cuisine, as it is recommended for use in salads and cooking over other oils and fats.
Moreover, the Mediterranean diet is highly palatable making it quite easy for someone to comply and achieve weight loss. It has been found that dieters had a better adherence to Mediterranean diet compared to other diets.
Specifically for weight loss, the Mediterranean diet has been found that is not associated with obesity and moreover, is an essential dietary regimen for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. Furthermore, study showed that it was effective in weight loss when combined with energy restriction, physical activity and compliance for more than 6 months. In addition to weight loss, Mediterranean diet is a basic form of dieting because of the ability to help in better glycemic control.
It is also very important the fact that the Mediterranean diet achieved greater weight loss compared to low fat diet and monitoring of 24 months proved a longer lasting effect.
The almost nonexistent weight relapse that was found during the study makes it perhaps the best alternative for weight loss in moderately obese and overweight people.
In conclusion, whether you live in the Mediterranean or not, if you want to achieve weight loss, try to comply with the rules of the Mediterranean diet and you can have all the benefits mentioned above.
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