Over the last two decades many experts have come to the conclusion that a particular diet explains why Europeans are healthier, in many ways, than Americans.
Several studies have determined that the so-called Mediterranean diet is associated with a lesser chance of illness and increased well-being. Now, a new study suggests the Mediterranean diet is also linked to improved physical and mental health.
The study has been published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The Mediterranean diet comprises fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, olive oil and nuts. This dietary regimen has been proven to reduce the chance of chronic illness and lower mortality rates.
In the recent study, investigators analyzed the influence of the Mediterranean diet on the quality of life among a sample of more than 11,000 university students over a period of four years.
“The progressive aging of the population in developed countries makes it even more interesting to find out those factors that can increase quality of life and the health of the population,” said Patricia Henríquez Sánchez, a researcher at University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands and lead author of the study.
As part of the study, dietary intake data was taken at the beginning of the study, then self-perceived quality of life was assessed after the four-year monitoring period.
In order to ascertain whether the Mediterranean diet was followed, consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, cereals and fish was positively valued whereas consumption of meat, dairy products and alcohol was negatively valued.
Investigators found that those who stick more to the Mediterranean diet scored higher on the quality of life questionnaire in terms of physical and mental well-being. This link was even stronger in terms of physical quality of life.
Henríquez said that “the Mediterranean diet is an important factor associated with better quality of life and can be considered as a healthy food model.” Its food pyramid combines food to be eaten daily, weekly and occasionally.
A key characteristic of the Mediterranean diet is inclusion of three basic elements in main meals: cereals, fruit and vegetables and dairy products. Furthermore, individuals should always drink 1.5 to 2 liters (about 1.5 to 2 quarts) of water per day.
Olive oil constitutes the main source of fat for its nutritional quality and moderate consumption of wine and other fermented beverages is recommended. Fish, lean meat and eggs are recommended sources of high quality animal protein and fish and seafood are sources of healthy fats.
Highly processed items such as sugar, sweets, cakes, pastries and sweetened beverages should be consumed only occasionally and in small amounts.
Source: Plataforma SINC