5 benefits of embracing the Mediterranean diet

Inspired by the lifestyle of people living near the Mediterranean Sea, the Mediterranean diet stands apart from other diets. As a way of living, it goes beyond food, encouraging mindfulness, cooking with others, sharing meals with friends and family, exercise and healthy sleep habits.

There is evidence showing that this approach to food may help people living with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like arthritis to live a healthy and balanced life. Here are five benefits of the Mediterranean diet:

  1. Mindful eating: The act of cooking together, sitting down and taking time to enjoy flavours will enhance your relationship with food, help you listen to your body and reduce the tendency to eat mindlessly.
  2. Anti-inflammatory properties: The Mediterranean diet avoids foods that promote inflammation and is heavy on foods that reduce inflammation, such as antioxidants in many vegetables and mono-unsaturated fats in nuts. Research shows that this approach is associated with reduced pain in inflamed joints and a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers.
  3. Weight management: By eating more whole grains and healthy fats, and limiting, rather than removing, red meat and sugar from your diet, you practise a sustainable approach to managing weight.
  4. Improved gut health: A study by the American Gut Project showed that people who consume 30 or more different plant foods per week have the healthiest microbiomes, which means better gut health. Because the Mediterranean diet is rich in plant foods and fibre, it may improve your gut health and in turn support your overall health.
  5. Supported immune function: Prolonged inflammation in the body can impact the immune system and eating a balanced and healthy diet, promoted by the Mediterranean diet, will support the health of your immune cells.

“A healthier relationship with food can make all the difference if you live with a chronic health condition like arthritis,” says Cristina Montoya, registered dietitian and member of the Arthritis Health Professions Association. “Rather than fixating on a specific ingredient or nutrient, focus instead on your eating pattern, so it becomes a way of living rather than a temporary short-term fix.”

Find more nutritional guidance at arthritis.ca/living-well

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