Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

October 6, 2013

Mediterranean diet has its benefits, but not ‘miracle drug’

In the day of trendy diets some, like the Mediterranean diet, have roots and results that are tied to their region and heritage.

In addition to regular physical activity, a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help you stay healthier longer and reduce your risk of chronic disease. Typical eating habits in the Mediterranean tend to mimic this formula for good health.

“The people who live in the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea are known for living long and healthy lives,” says Cindy Fitch, director of WVU Extension Service Families and Health Programs. “Scientists believe that the typical eating habits in the region play a role.”

The Mediterranean Diet consists primarily of legumes, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables and olive oil. Consumption of milk, dairy products, fish and red wine is moderate, and red meat is seldom eaten and only in small amounts. This combination of food adds up to a high ratio of mono- and polyunsaturated fats in comparison to saturated fats.

“Studies of populations have shown that this way of eating is associated with lower risk for heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, diabetes, some types of cancer and death from all causes” claims Fitch.

In addition to this beneficial fat ratio, the variety of foods eaten in the Mediterranean diet presents few unique benefits of its own. The variety ensures ample opportunity to consume all of the essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants that protect the body’s cell walls from damage.

However, Fitch cautions that adopting a Mediterranean diet is not, “a miracle drug.”

Fitch also notes that all fats, including healthy oils, are calorie-dense and that a diet high in monounsaturated fats can potentially lead to obesity. The amount of fat that a person needs depends on the number of calories that they need for their size, muscle mass and activity level.

So take a cue from the Mediterranean and maintain eating habits that include plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grain and low-fat dairy products while incorporating regular physical activity in your day to day activities.

“Health, longevity and a decreased risk of chronic disease can also be enjoyed right here in West Virginia,” Fitch says.

For more information regarding the Mediterranean diet or ideas for incorporating physical activity in your daily routine, contact Margaret Miltenberger at the WVU Extension Service Mineral County office at 304-788-3621.

Margaret W. Miltenberger

4-H and family extension agent

WVU Mineral County Extension Office

Keyser, W.Va
.

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