Times are undoubtably tough at the moment. You are confined to the house for a good part of your day, unable to see family and loved ones. The grandchildren are growing so fast it feels like you are missing out on their milestones, and you’re craving the freedom to go and socialise with friends. And while it’s lovely to have more time to spend on your hobbies, there are only so many books you can read! Thankfully, the weather is slowly improving and it's hopefully time to get back outside and get moving, perhaps for a cycle ride, or to give the garden some much needed TLC –so what's holding you back? Low energy, swelling and stiffness from chronic arthritis, sore joints or back pain may be preventing you from being as mobile as you’d like. The fear of those familiar pains returning is enough to keep you indoors and picking up yet another book!
Many of these symptoms can be linked to systemic inflammation, which I see time and time again in my practice. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The Mediterranean diet has long been known for its anti-inflammatory properties and because of this, I support clients to transition over to the Mediterranean way of eating as a foundation to relieve symptoms of inflammation. By adopting features of the diet into your own lifestyle, you too can reap the benefits.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is based around the consumption of predominantly plant-based foods – think whole grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and nut and seed oils (especially olive oil).Moderate amount of some animal foods including fish, seafood, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and poultry are permitted, while red meat and highly processed foods are limited (1). And the best news of all – the Mediterranean diet includes moderate and frequent consumption of red wine! One important aspect of the diet is HOW it is consumed – food and drink are there to be enjoyed, ideally in a relaxed setting and shared with loved ones – which may not be possible now, but it will be all the more enjoyable when it is.
Here are five great reasons to start eating the Mediterranean way...
1. Boost your vitality
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most heavily studied dietary patterns and is known as the ‘gold standard’ dietary pattern due to its high concentration of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant elements, as well as providing a plentiful supply of dietary fibre – which is incredibly important for healthy digestion, gut health, blood sugar balance and hormone regulation.Time and time again research shows those following a Mediterranean-style diet have an increased life expectancy, improved quality of life and general wellbeing compared to a typical Western diet (2).
2. Lift your mood and reduce anxiety
Low-grade inflammation in the brain can cause an imbalance of hormones responsible for regulating your mood, leading to low mood and anxiety. TheMediterranean diet is abundant in nutrients including folate, vitamin C and omega-3, which are incredibly important for reducing inflammation and supporting hormone regulation. Recent research has also suggested the Mediterranean diet can enhance sleep quality, crucial for reducing neuro-inflammation (3).
3. Soothe your gut
Leaky gut, dysbiosis and stress can all exacerbate inflammation in the gut, resulting in swelling, discomfort and other IBS-like symptoms which can be debilitating, painful and sometimes, downright embarrassing. Luckily, theMediterranean way of eating can help your gut flourish! Being high in phytonutrients and fibre from the colourful array of fruits and vegetables, it can support to increase the diversity of your gut bacteria which in turn can reduce levels of low-grade inflammation in the gut (4).
4. Reduce your risk of chronic diseases
A number of preventable, chronic diseases have been linked to chronic, low-grade inflammation including diabetes, Alzheimer's and some cancers. With poor diet being one of the biggest influencers in inflammation, it’s no surprise the Mediterranean diet trumps above the rest and many studies have shown reduce risk of disease when following this pattern of eating, due to decreased production of inflammatory cytokines, reduced cholesterol and better blood sugar balance (5).
5. Ease your pain
Inflammation can result in aching muscles and joint pain, leading to longer recovery times after workouts; it also plays a key role in the aches, pains and stiffness associated with arthritis. The Mediterranean diet contains plenty of anti-inflammatory nutrients and is full of antioxidants, which help to reduce oxidative stress from free radicals, therefore reducing inflammation(6) – supporting you to recover faster and get back to your usual routine.
My favourite thing about the Mediterranean way of eating is the sheer variety of foods! Beautiful warming stews; beautifully baked fish just the way nature intended, and fresh, zingy salads always brimming with colour and vibrancy – it's the epitome of summer on a plate. How can you include more of the Med in your day today?
If you’re looking for inspiration Keep an eye out for my delicious Caponata recipe and for something sweet don’t miss my fabulous Apple and Almond Olive Oil Cake. Happy eating!