The Mediterranean diet emphasizes nutrient-rich eating from sources such as vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and lean protein. The dietary approach has been praised for its health benefits in recent years, including improved heart health. Now, it’s also been hailed as a beneficial diet for people with type 2 diabetes, thanks to its ability to improve several key biomarkers, such as inflammation, insulin resistance, body mass index (BMI), and HDL cholesterol.
How the Mediterranean Diet Helps with Type 2 Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is a flavorful eating pattern based on the dietary habits of people in countries near the Mediterranean Sea. It offers filling meal options that prioritize the nutrients bodies need to perform their best, while also limiting additives such as refined carbohydrates, red meat, and added sugars.
According to research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants of the Mediterranean diet had the best A1C scores, which measure blood sugar over a three-month period. They also lost more weight and had the best cardiovascular health, including improved cholesterol levels, compared to peers who participated in high-protein, high-fiber, vegetarian, vegan, or low-carbohydrate diets.
While this heart-healthy diet can’t reverse diabetes, it can help reduce the risk of complications related to the disease. By reducing cholesterol, it protects the heart, thereby limiting the risk for serious issues such as heart attack and stroke. The diet also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by as much as 30%.
Which Foods Can You Eat on the Mediterranean Diet?
Fortunately, the Mediterranean diet isn’t restrictive and is quite simple. The idea is to incorporate as many fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible and prioritize lean meat or plant-based protein, such as skinless chicken, fish, and legumes. Here are a few examples of which foods are commonly eaten in the diet:
- Whole Grains: Choose whole-grain bread and pasta products, as well as quinoa, brown rice, barley, and farro.
- Nuts, Seeds, & Beans: Heart-healthy nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios are excellent choices. You can also have sunflower and sesame seeds, beans such as kidney, white, black, and cannellini beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
- Vegetables: Eat a variety of vegetables such as bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, artichokes, carrots, beets, fennel, onions, and zucchinis, among others.
- Fruits: While fruits do naturally contain sugars, they are also nutrient-rich and can be enjoyed in moderation. Consider snacking on melons, figs, dates, grapes, citrus fruits, berries, and apples.
- Healthy Fats: Olive oil is a great source of healthy fats, and can be used for cooking or salads.
- Fresh Fish & Seafood: Salmon, shrimp, halibut, mackerel, herring, trout, and other seafood rich in healthy fats are among the best protein sources.
- Dairy & Poultry: Reduced-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt and milk, eggs, and lean poultry are all welcome choices on the Mediterranean diet.
While switching to an entirely new eating style can be overwhelming, you might consider taking small steps to work towards a full Mediterranean dietary lifestyle. For instance, you might start by reducing or eliminating processed foods, then aim to incorporate vegetables with most of your meals. Making healthy dietary choices can deliver numerous wellness benefits and is a worthwhile endeavor, even if it takes some time to adapt.
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