When selecting an eating program, it can be tempting to rely on diets that have defined “rules”, structures, or even clear lists of what foods must be avoided -paleo, keto, bone broth diets, the list goes on. It can be difficult to sort through the many weight loss claims and other potential health benefits of the numerous choices out there.
Additionally, it takes time to dig through the research that supports various claims or evaluate how safe it is. In this diet comparison series, we have recently analyzed the benefits and disadvantages of the paleo diet and the Weight Watchers™ program. Today we will assess how the Mediterranean diet stacks up.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet has long been exemplified as a diet that benefits many health outcomes including cognitive health, cardiovascular disease, and weight loss. Not only does it promote whole foods with a focus on taste, but also has few restrictions.
While the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are still universally recognized today by medical professionals, adopting the Mediterranean diet, like many other eating programs, can be a challenge, especially if an individual is not sure of what foods and structure the Mediterranean diet actually consists of.
A Mediterranean-style diet is a broad term. The origin of the Mediterranean diet is rooted in the traditional eating habits of those 16 countries that lie on the parameter of the Mediterranean Sea. Since each of these countries have their own cultures, agriculture, and eating traditions, there is no one standard diet, however, there are many overlapping factors. These common elements include a wide variety of whole foodsthat are rich in essential nutrients.
How it works
The Mediterranean diet is based mainly on traditional fresh whole foods that can be found in countries such as France, Italy, Lebanon, Greece, Spain, and Turkey. A main focus of this diet is on fruits and vegetables—about 10 servings each day, as well as complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fish, and seafood.
There are also moderate amounts of foods such as low-fat dairy and low to moderate amounts of alcohol—mainly red wine. Compared with the average or standard American diet, individuals who follow the Mediterranean diet consume far less meat, especially red meat, saturated fats, and added sugars.
A Mediterranean-style diet typically includes:
- A wide variety of fruits, vegetables, bread and other grains, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds
- Olive oil, olives, avocados, and nuts as a primary fat sources
- Fish and seafood at least twice per week
- Low to moderate amounts of dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry
- Fish and poultry are more common than red meat in this diet. It also centers on minimally processed, plant-based foods versus refined and packaged foods
- Wine may be consumed in low to moderate amounts, usually with meals. Fruit is a common dessert instead of sweets.
The Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The pros of this program are the focus on whole foods and the flexibility to fit with an individual’s needs and lifestyle. Additionally, the lack of restrictions may be beneficial to those individuals who often feel deprived or engage in unsustainable diet practices that usually include severely restricting calories, which could lead to overeating or other unhealthy dietary behaviors.
The Mediterranean diet is based on numerous clinical trials and meta-analyses, it has been shown to be successful, especially for those individuals who are concerned about certain chronic health conditions, including: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, and even some cancers. Furthermore, this style is approved by many dietitians as well as endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA).
Finally, the Mediterranean diet is not just a way of eating, but a lifestyle as exercise is an essential component which can help to build lifelong healthy habits.
The Disadvantages of the Mediterranean Diet
While most health care professionals endorse the Mediterranean diet and due to the decreased intake of dairy products, there may be issues with getting adequate calcium or vitamin D, especially if other foods rich in these nutrients are not consumed.
How to Do It Better
Each person’s body is unique and finding a diet that works is difficult. The safest approach is to use science as the basis of your decision, no matter which diet you’re considering trying out for yourself.
As previously described, the Mediterranean diet is a diet based in sound science. Since there are few restrictions on what to eat and there is flexibility on how to distribute your calories and nutrients, knowing your optimal ranges can be beneficial. Using your GenoPalate results or taking an eating for your genes approach to make a couple of modifications may help a person whose lifestyle is suited for this eating program be even more successful.
How Does Eating for Your Genes Work?
Eating for your genes utilizes your unique DNA and genotype as a science-based blueprint for what you eat based on how you metabolize certain macronutrients, micronutrients, and substances. It is rooted in the understanding that you are an individual and as an individual, your body is unique and therefore there is no “one-fits-all” approach to dieting.
You are one of a kind. Our bodies each have at least slightly varying needs, as we all respond differently to the world around us and metabolize nutrients differently. Studies demonstrate we can personalize nutritionby taking a look at our individual genetic variations and use this information to construct a solid dietary foundation.
Those genetic variants and their related nutrition outcomes have been thoroughly researched. Once we know our genetic variations, we have a better idea of which foods can help us optimize our diet. For example, you may have a genetic variant that indicates you are predisposed to a lower BMI if you consume a diet higher in proteins or you have a decreased ability to convert beta-carotene to active vitamin A. In this case, it may be helpful to consume more vitamin A-rich foods—such as seafood, full-fat milk, or fortified dairy products.
Benefits of Eating for Your Genes
Why does the concept of implementing a DNA-based eating program seem so novel? It is because the innovative nature of nutrigenomics creates a science-based roadmap for us when it comes to our food choices. With information about your genetic makeup, you can start to pinpoint which foods should be included in your diet and how much.
Eating for your genes is not a specific diet per se, it instead is a true eating plan. If you do like a more traditional or structured weight loss approach, as many people do since they can help our brain compartmentalize information, using your DNA as a guide you can begin to better tailor a structured or commercial program to your needs and may increase your odds of success. Nutrigenomics gives us the insights we need to make specific, thoughtful, and strategic choices about what we put into our bodies to prevent chronic diseases and gain optimal nutrition.
DNA testing companies like GenoPalate can help you interpret and understand your genotype and nutritional recommendations to make truly informed decisions on how to distribute your calories wisely and to choose foods that will nourish your body and help to achieve prime health.
Disadvantages of Eating for Your Genes
The biggest shortcoming that comes with eating for your genes is that DNA test reports do not account for epigenetics or medical conditions. Thus, you should combine the eating for your genes method with any additional medical information you have—such as blood test results—to determine your ideal diet. We recommend working with your healthcare provider to fill in any missing pieces so you end up with a holistic plan and know exactly how to achieve your health and wellness goals.
How to Determine the Right Way to Eat for Your Body
The great thing about eating for your genes is it is not a FAD diet, it is simply understanding how your body responds to both macronutrients and micronutrients and adjusting your intake to better align with those parameters.
Additionally, it is personalized to your unique needs and it can be incorporated into your everyday life in numerous ways. In fact, eating for your genes can help prevent you from engaging in fad diets, which are often not sustainable and result in the regaining of any weight that may have been lost. Moreover, for those eating programs that have withstood the test of time and have evidence that they can help people lose weight, an eating for your genes approach can be incorporated and may help individuals achieve their goals successfully.
The first step to this DNA based eating approach is educating yourself further. To do so, you can learn more by reading this article about how to personalize your weight loss experience or check out this FREE resource to see what personalized nutrition based on your DNA might look like and what it can do for you! You may be surprised at how fast you start to see results when you select the right path for your body and what makes you unique.
1. Franz, M. J., Boucher, J. L., Rutten-Ramos, S., & VanWormer, J. J. (2015). Lifestyle weight-loss intervention outcomes in overweight and obese adults with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(9), 1447-1463.
2. Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). Mediterranean diet and prevention of chronic diseases. Nutrition today, 52(5), 208.
3. Rubio-López, N., Llopis-González, A., Picó, Y., & Morales-Suárez-Varela, M. (2017). Dietary calcium intake and adherence to the mediterranean diet in Spanish children: The ANIVA Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(6), 637.
4. Arkadianos, I., Valdes, A. M., Marinos, E., Florou, A., Gill, R. D., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2007). Improved weight management using genetic information to personalize a calorie controlled diet. Nutrition journal, 6(1), 1-8.
5. Gardner, C. D., et.al., (2018). Effect of low-fat vs low-carbohydrate diet on 12-month weight loss in overweight adults and the association with genotype pattern or insulin secretion: the DIETFITS randomized clinical trial. Jama, 319(7), 667-679.
6. Pray, L. (2018). Nutrigenomics and the future of nutrition: proceedings of a workshop. In Nutrigenomics and the future of nutrition: proceedings of a workshop.. The National Acadamies Press.
7. Tanaka, T., et. al., (2013). Genome-wide meta-analysis of observational studies shows common genetic variants associated with macronutrient intake. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 97(6), 1395-1402.
8. Ferrucci, L., et. al., (2009). Common variation in the β-carotene 15, 15′-monooxygenase 1 gene affects circulating levels of carotenoids: a genome-wide association study. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 84(2), 123-133.
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