Mediterranean diet while can give us multiple health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and better cholesterol levels, studies have shown it can significantly reduce risks of mortality in elderly people
“Healthy eating” is something everyone talks—and is concerned—about. What all then constitute a healthy diet, or what all should we be eating—and not eating—to have better health benefits?
One of the debates on food is related to what is called the “Mediterranean diet”.
The Mediterranean diet is not really dieting, but eating a variety of fresh foods that taste good. The Mediterranean diet has been there for over 50 years and its benefits have been well documented.
The nutritional benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been explored extensively over the past few years. And there seems to be general consensus among experts that the Mediterranean diet can lower risk of heart diseases and certain types of cancer and diabetes, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis and strokes.
It can be also beneficial for those with hypertension. It may help prevent depression as well. The Mediterranean diet is said to be the recipe for a healthy life as it can prevent all manner of ills.
According to the findings of a research published recently in the British Journal of Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet may lower “all- cause mortality” among the elderly people.
The diet, which is a mix of fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and moderate wine consumption, according to the findings, is associated with a 25 per cent reduction of “all-cause mortality” and the effect remains when considering “cardiovascular or cerebrovascular mortality” as well.
“We already knew that the Mediterranean diet is able to reduce the risk of mortality in the general population, but we did not know whether it would be the same specifically for elderly people,” the journal quoted Marialaura Bonaccio, PhD, researcher at the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention and first author of the study conducted by the Italian Institute Neurological Mediterranean Neuromed.
There were 5,200 individuals aged 65 and over from the Molise region in Italy who were included in the study that looked at their health and diet between 2005 and 2010, and followed up until 2015, during which time 900 deaths occurred.
Participants were also asked to complete a food questionnaire reflecting their diet in the year before signing up, and each was given a score for how close their diet was to the Mediterranean diet on a 0-9 scale. The results revealed that those who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet were also more likely to undertake more physical activity in their free time.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterised by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, various vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and a moderate amount of red wine consumed with meals.
This kind of diet has evolved over hundreds of years in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and is fundamentally different from the modern diets promoted for their often unsupported health benefits today, including the paleo, ketogenic, or grain- and gluten-free diets.
Some might wonder about the requirement of protein in the diet of older people and whether they can get it from the Mediterranean diet. Actually, protein is typically found in the Mediterranean diet.
Healthy eating and some diet change—along with some exercise—are important to stay strong and maintain your health as you age. To make sure you are getting all the nutrients, it is important to eat a balanced diet that includes foods from: fruits, vegetables; grains; lean meat, poultry; fish and eggs; tofu and nuts, seeds (flax seed), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds; legumes; beans; milk, yogurt, cheese and paneer.
When it comes to calories, as we age, we probably need fewer calories to maintain weight. Eating more calories than you burn will result in weight gain.
With growing age, we need less energy while we experience more muscle or joint problems. As a result, you may become less mobile and burn fewer calories through physical activity and you may also lose muscle mass. This causes your metabolism to slow down, lowering your calories needs.
Many people experience loss of appetite in older age. It is also common that older people gradually lose sense of smell and taste which can lead to less eating. If you’re burning fewer calories through physical activity, eating less may not be a problem. However, you need to get enough calories and nutrients to ensure that your organs, muscle and bone are strong enough.
That’s why there is a need to focus on nutrient-rich foods, which can be obtained from the Mediterranean diet.
Older people may need fewer calories but the requirement of nutrients remains either same or increases. Hence eating nutrient -rich foods will help you get the vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats you need.
As studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can give us multiple health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and better cholesterol levels, it’s about time to give our diet a Mediterranean makeover.
Shah is a nutritionist at Kirtipur Hospital
A version of this article appears in print on October 30, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.
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