Mediterranean Diet Review
There are so many diets out there, all claiming to be the one solution you need to lose weight or get healthy. They range from super calorie-restricting, to low carb or low fat, to high protein or high fat diets. Today we’re focusing on two of these diets, the plant-based diet and a Mediterranean diet review.
They are similar in a lot of ways but have a few key differences. We will be examining the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for your lifestyle and nutrition needs.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is basically a way of life which consists of solely plant foods with no animal products at all. As animal products can be problematic for people to consume, you can imagine the health benefits of this kind of diet.
It is important on a plant-based diet to get all of the nutrients you need. A lot of times, people cut out meat from their diets then rely heavily on things labeled as vegan, or just grains and pasta. There are many meat substitutes out there, which can be a big help, but a plant-based diet should be just that… based on plants. Most of the nutrients found in a traditional diet can be found through plant foods, such as protein and calcium.
Animal Products are Unhealthy
Countless studies have come out about the risks of eating things like red meat and bacon. While maybe they are healthier than some other foods, although I honestly can’t think of one example, we absolutely know that the saturated fat found in fatty meats is bad for us.
It raises the levels of bad cholesterol in our blood. Processed meats such as bacon have also been linked to an increased cancer risk, heart disease, and dementia.
It’s not just meat that’s a problem. Dairy is also eliminated on a plant-based vegan diet because it has its own large set of problems, from by-products we don’t need, to an overabundance of the nutrients we do need. Dairy also has been shown to cause inflammation for most of the population.
Same Nutrients Provided, but Better
A plant-based diet just doesn’t have these kinds of risks. In fact, it is probably the most risk-free way to eat in terms of disease. Plants have all of the benefits and almost none of the negatives of animal products. Saturated fat is found almost exclusively in animal products while plants that do have fat are mostly unsaturated, though things like plant oils can contain some saturated fat, and vice versa.
When people think of animal products such as meat and milk, they think of them as staple foods that provide good nutrients such as calcium, protein and iron. And why not, they have been part of the recommended food pyramid for ages. It’s time to rethink where we get our vitamins and minerals.
You can easily get all the protein you need from things such as various types of beans, including soybeans and tofu. Dark leafy greens are actually a decent source of protein as well, with 11 percent of your daily protein needs in a cup of spinach. The same goes for iron, you can find good amounts of iron in both beans and leafy greens.
Calcium is also surprisingly found in leafy greens and beans. Tofu is a significant source of calcium as well as spinach. This tells us that a diet without meat or dairy but heavy on beans and vegetables can be just as healthy without the drawbacks of animal products.
While we covered the fact that many nutrients found in animal products can also be found in plants, there are a few that can only be found in significant amounts in animal products. These are primarily vitamins D and B12. Despite its abundance in the standard diet, many people are actually more deficient in vitamin D than they realize, mostly thanks to society moving primarily indoors and not getting enough sunlight.
Vitamin B12 is also a common deficiency in vegetarians.
So while eating a plant-based diet does not necessarily guarantee a deficiency in these nutrients, it is far more likely that someone on a plant-based diet will have them than a standard diet. They are easily attained through supplements however, as well as spending more time out of doors for vitamin D.
There’s a huge market out there for vegetarian and vegan products, so you’re sure to find a lot of it at your grocery store. However, while these are convenient, you should be careful not to fall into their trap. Convenience foods are just that, a convenience, with a price tag to match.
When eating a plant-based diet, you should be shopping the perimeter of the store, buying whole foods and ingredients.
Another trap you want to avoid with the specialty foods is their ingredients. While they claim to be healthy, you may be surprised when you take a closer look at the ingredient list: you may find several things that you don’t want to be eating, whether it fits into your diet or not.
They can also have just as much sugar and sodium as other foods, even if they come from alternative sources.
What’s the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet has become popular in recent years. For the western world it’s a new way of eating, but for the people of the Mediterranean region, it’s just their way of life.
This is because after studying the way they eat and the average health of the people, it is obvious that the Mediterranean way of eating leads to longevity and health, especially heart health, as people who eat this way seem to have a much smaller risk of heart disease.
So what is the Mediterranean way of eating? It is based around plants as well, with an emphasis on good fat such as healthy oils and legumes. The main way it differs from a plant-based diet is that it includes fish and eggs for lean protein, and cultured dairy such as yogurt and cheese.
Like the plant-based diet, the Mediterranean diet isn’t focused on losing weight or doing anything but providing good whole foods. Scientists aren’t sure what part of the Mediterranean diet is heart healthy, so simply switching to this way of eating can do a load of good.
Variety and Choice
If you don’t think that you can cut as much out of your diet as the plant-based diet requires, the Mediterranean diet is a good choice for you. It leaves out a lot of problematic food by not being focused on dairy and red meat, yet still gives you options of things such as fish and cheese.
Fish is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean diet. It’s a good idea to supplement with 1000 mg combined EPA and DHA in addition to eating a fish based diet.
Another part of the Mediterranean diet is the wine intake. People in the region consider wine to be a part of their daily routine. The health effects of drinking wine on a regular basis have been debated for year, but suffice it to say, some studies point to the fact that red wine contributes to healthy brain aging. Can’t argue with that…!
Overall, the Mediterranean diet is much less restrictive than the plant-based diet.
More Healthy Fat
While fat can be found in beans and related foods as well as healthy oils for the plant-based diet, fats are a bigger part of the Mediterranean diet. The consumption of healthy fats has been shown to be good for the body, as opposed to what we believed about fat before the rise of the low fat craze.
Both diets provide fat, the Mediterranean diet just more so.
The food eaten on a Mediterranean diet should be of good quality and can be on the pricey side, since it includes a lot of olive oil, nuts and fish. Fish can be one of the more expensive items at the grocery store if it doesn’t come in a can.
As opposed to the plant-based diet, which with the exception of things such as nuts mostly consists of fruits and vegetables, the Mediterranean diet can run up your grocery bill much quicker.
While fish is one of the healthiest meats you can buy in terms of nutrients, it still has its disadvantages. Depending on what you buy and where it comes from, it can contain way too much mercury or other toxins, especially from Fukushima radiation in the Pacific Ocean. Be informed, do your research, and read labels carefully when choosing your fish.
Which One is Best?
Ultimately, your choice of diet is purely up to you. The plant-based diet has much fewer disadvantages overall, and is probably the healthiest choice. However, the healthiest diet is the one you will stick to, and if you feel like the plant-based diet is too restrictive on your lifestyle, you might want to try the Mediterranean diet. I hope this Mediterranean diet review was able to point out the pros and cons.
Let me know in the comments below which one you prefer…!