What is the healthiest country in the world? Many studies suggest the healthiest country is Spain. In 2019, Spain surpassed Italy as the world’s healthiest country. This result is not surprising given the typical diet in that region, which is the Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet).
The medical literature is loaded with positive studies on the MedDiet. Many extensive studies demonstrate that the MedDiet increases life expectancy and reduces the risk of most major diseases (certain cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and Alzheimer’s Disease).
The traditional MedDiet is characterized by a high intake of plant foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and unprocessed cereals); low intake of meat products (especially red and processed meats); moderate to high consumption of fish, low consumption of dairy (except for yogurt and long-preservable cheeses); moderate consumption of wine (mainly wine); high intake of fats but with a high ratio of monounsaturated fats consumed from extra-virgin olive oil.
Save Your Brain with the MedDiet
A first-of-its-kind study utilizing brain imaging demonstrated that following a MedDiet is associated with less accumulation of beta-amyloid in older adults who were not cognitively impaired. Remember that beta-amyloid accumulation is toxic to the brain and a hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease. Several studies show that a MedDiet is linked with slower cognitive decline and risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. The accumulation of amyloid plaques is a protective mechanism in defending against brain inflammation. The MedDiet has been shown to reduce inflammation due to its high antioxidant effects from plant foods, including spices, omega 3’s(fish), omega 9’s (olive oil).
Western Grains Sabotage MedDiet
One big problem with the MedDiet, though, is the consumption of grains. The grain products we consume in America are a recipe for disease! Examples include bread, pasta, crackers, noodles, etc., which are refined carbohydrates. Even the so-called whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, are blood sugar and insulin spikers. Case in point, whole-wheat bread products have a higher glycemic index rating (how slowly or quickly a food increases blood glucose levels) than Coca-Cola!
Also, in clinical practice, I find that approximately 25% or higher of people have some degree of gluten sensitivity (wheat, rye, barley). There are options for gluten sensitivity, such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth, and steel-cut oats. However, gluten-free products often have a very high carbohydrate composition and are low in fiber; therefore, they should be consumed in moderation.
Live Longer and Healthier
Get healthy now by following a MedDiet that limits refined grains. It works well for weight control, fatigue and protects your heart and brain against disease! It works well for many of my patients and can work for you!
Glycemic index for 60+ foods – Harvard Health. 2018. Harvard Health. [accessed 2019 Jun 28]. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods
Miller L, Lu W. 2019. These Are the World’s Healthiest Nations. Bloomberg.com. [accessed 2019 Jun 28]. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-24/spain-tops-italy-as-world-s-healthiest-nation-while-u-s-slips
Martinez-Gonzalez M, Martin-Calvo N. 2016. Mediterranean diet and life expectancy; beyond olive oil, fruits, and vegetables. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 19:401-407.
Rainey-Smith S, Gu Y, Gardener S, Doecke J, Villemagne V, Brown B, Taddei K, Laws S, Sohrabi H, Weinborn M et al. 2018. Mediterranean diet adherence and rate of cerebral Aβ-amyloid accumulation: Data from the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Ageing. Translational Psychiatry 8.