Individuals living in the region along the Mediterranean Sea have shown a much lower incidence of diet-related diseases, such as heart disease and breast cancer, than their North American and Northern European counterparts. Their secret? The Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean Diet is much more than just a healthy way of eating. It’s a lifestyle built on consuming the natural, seasonal and minimally processed foods raised in the area. And some critical regional staples include olives and olive oil.
A Promise of Good Health
Olive oil’s health benefits are well researched and documented, with new discoveries underway. Incorporating olive oil into a well-balanced diet and in place of saturated fat has been shown to have far-reaching benefits:
- Cardiovascular disease. Olive oil may lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the level of harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) in the bloodstream by carrying it to the liver and leaving high density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, intact.
- Blood pressure. The addition of olive oil to a diet has been shown to have a lowering effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- Cancer. Olive oil’s association with reduced risks of certain cancers – including breast, bowel and colon cancer – has been attributed to its vitamins, antioxidants and oleic acid.
- Diabetes. Olive oil has been shown to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by raising HDL cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, controlling blood sugar and lowering blood pressure.
- Obesity. Although high in calories, olive oil contributes to greater and longer-lasting weight loss than low-fat diets.
- Digestive disorders. Olive oil eases ailments along the digestive system, reducing reflux, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption, preventing gallstones and more.
- Immune system. Olive oil bolsters the immune system against threats from microorganisms, bacteria and viruses.
- Aging. The antioxidants in olive oil can help protect the body from free radicals, which may accelerate the aging process and contribute to the onset of several diseases.
Adopting the Mediterranean Diet
With the Mediterranean Diet, healthy eating is anything but boring, bland or unsatisfying. In addition to being rich in nutrients and lower in fat, the diet presents opportunities to use colors, flavors and textures in limitless ways due to the variety of foods encouraged. The Mediterranean Diet is based on fresh fruits and vegetables; grains; nuts, beans, legumes and seeds; herbs and spices; cheese and yogurt; fish and shellfish; eggs and poultry; and of course, olives and olive oil (red meats and wine may be used in moderation).
By adding color with fruits, vegetables and heart-healthy olive oils, it’s easy to achieve a satisfying, nutrient-rich diet that appeals to the eye and the palate. Bright red tomatoes. Deep ebony olives. Vivid yellow and green peppers. Bold cheeses and crusty breads. Golden olive oil. Aesthetically — and nutritionally — the Mediterranean Diet is a thing of beauty.
To learn how the Mediterranean Diet can help you eat more healthfully, cook more creatively and adopt a simpler, more delicious lifestyle, visit http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/web/aa-ingles/oliveWorld/salud.html.
Information from International Olive Council (www.internationaloliveoil.org).