A lot of people go on diets with one goal in mind: to lose weight. But if the diet is a sustainable one, its benefits often extend beyond shedding pounds. Many people find this to be the case with the Mediterranean diet, which mimics traditional eating patterns of people who live along the Mediterranean sea and eat diets heavy in vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and nuts.
In addition to weight loss, the diet has been shown to assist with heart health and diabetes prevention, and was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the best diet of 2019.
INSIDER spoke with Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietitian, and owner of BZ Nutrition, to learn more about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet that don’t have anything to do with weight loss.
Heart health is improved by healthy fats.
One of the main benefits of the Mediterranean diet is the prevention of heart disease.
“This diet helps to boost heart health thanks to all the healthy fats it uses, like olive oil, olives, nuts, and avocado,” Zeitlin told INSIDER. “They help to boost your HDL (the good cholesterol), which in turn helps to lower your LDL (the bad cholesterol).”
The reduction of LDL helps keep arteries clear, which helps prevent heart attacks.
Easier digestion comes from the fiber.
Taking up the Mediterranean diet may also assist with digestion.
“This diet is also packed in fiber thanks to the fruits and vegetables that help promote motility, fight constipation, and reduce bloat[ing] and gas,” Zeitlin told INSIDER.
Diabetes can also be prevented with fiber.
Zeitlin added that “all that fiber will help to prevent type 2 diabetes.”
Dietary fiber also helps absorb sugar from the bloodstream and regulate blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic. This, in turn, helps prevent diabetes.
Sticking to the diet can improve health later in life.
Adopting the Mediterranean diet could positively impact your health for years to come. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, women who followed the Mediterranean diet during their 50s and 60s had about a 46% greater chance of living past the age of 70 without chronic illness or serious mental and physical problems.
Better skin can come from antioxidants and omega-3s.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes food that are full of antioxidants, lean protein, and fatty acids— all of which can improve the skin.
“This diet that is naturally rich in antioxidants and omega-3 s will help promote healthy, young looking skin,” Zeitlin told INSIDER. “The antioxidants will fight against signs of premature aging (lines and wrinkles) while the omegas will keep your skin well hydrated and fight redness and puffiness.”
The fruit in the diet can lead to a greater sense of health and wellbeing.
People who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to eat greater amounts of fresh produce and reduce their intake of processed foods. Because of this, being on the diet can increase one’s energy, vitality, and a general sense of wellbeing, even if weight loss isn’t a specific goal.
“I am a big believer in eating whole, fresh foods and that is the basis of the Mediterranean diet,” Zeitlin told INSIDER. “I would recommend this diet to anyone looking to up their health and wellness in general.”