What if changing your diet meant that you might be able to live to be 100? Too good to be true? Research says otherwise—and to “pass the olive oil.”
It turns out that the prescription for good health is a Mediterranean diet.
What is the Mediterranean diet? It has been touted for years by doctors, researchers, and registered dietitians as an easy and healthy way of eating to promote well-being.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines the Mediterranean diet as one that’s “high in fruits and vegetables, cereals and bread, potatoes, poultry, beans, nuts, olive oil, and fish while low in red meat and dairy and moderate in alcohol consumption.”
This pattern of eating comes with many potential health benefits; it can prevent heart disease and stroke and reduce risk factors, including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The term “Mediterranean diet” was first coined by Ancel Keys, an American scientist specializing in biology and physiology. Keys conducted research on nutrition throughout his entire career. In the 1950s, he began the Seven Countries Study—a study of middle-aged men living in seven different countries, including the United States. He observed that some countries had much lower rates of heart disease than the United States, suggesting that heart disease could perhaps be prevented.
Keys and his colleagues in their research discovered that dietary patterns in the Mediterranean region and Japan were linked with low rates of coronary heart disease and lower deaths due to any other cause (all-cause mortality). Their findings led Keys and other scientists to promote an eating model they discovered in Italy and Greece, which we now know as the Mediterranean diet.
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