If you want to stay healthy, slim, maintain your cognitive function, and live longer, there is no question that sticking to a traditional Mediterranean-type diet is the best investment you ever make. As diet fads come and go (including high fat, paleo, vegan, and ketogenic diets) there is a consistent flow of studies that confirm the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in children, elderly, and patients with depression and early Alzheimer’s disease. High amounts of fruits (in particular berries), vegetables, grains, and nuts, low intake of poultry, meat, and dairy products, and regular consumption of olive oil and moderate amount of red wine transformed into Italian, Greek or Spanish recipes seem to be better for all aspects of your health than any other diet.
Even though we don’t know which of the individual dietary components are responsible for this remarkable salutogenic effect, it appears that consuming a combination of all its components is more beneficial than the individual items. Moreover, enjoying the meal with friends or family adds further health benefits. Seasonal variations in food items, small scale local productions of many foods, and a minimal amount of processed foods may play additional roles. Based on the emerging microbiome science, it seems highly plausible that the higher intake of dietary fiber and polyphenols (in olives, red wine, berries and nuts) lead to a healthier and more diverse gut microbiome which in turn reduces low grade immune activation in the gut and in distant organs.
So if you are healthy yet have risk factors for certain diseases, from metabolic syndrome to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease or cancer, adhering to such a diet from early on in life, enjoying your meals in social settings, and exercising regularly are probably the best life insurance you can buy. If you are already affected by one of these disorders, adhering to such a diet has the potential of slowing disease progression or reducing disease severity.