The Mediterranean Diet: Another Fad or the Answer to a Healthy Immune System?

Is the Mediterranean Diet Really as Good as it Claims?

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The short answer? Yep.

The Mediterranean diet transcends the typical confines of “dieting” to offer a comprehensive lifestyle that integrates the joy of eating with overall health and wellness. This approach is less about restrictive eating and more about embracing a holistic way of life that respects cultural traditions and fosters a sense of freedom and fulfillment. Unlike conventional diets, which often focus narrowly on weight loss and caloric restriction, the Mediterranean diet (which I prefer to call a lifestyle) celebrates a rich variety of foods and the pleasures of eating, all while promoting health and protecting against illness and chronic disease.

So, what is the Mediterranean diet?

The adoption of the mediterranean diet as a medicinal approach to healing many of the diseases that plague the western world began when researchers realized that countries bordering the mediterranean sea such as Greece and Italy, had lower mortality rates, less chronic disease and significantly reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease. 

The mediterranean diet is a plant-based eating pattern that prioritizes traditional mediterranean cuisine such as; whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, spices and herbs, nuts and seeds, eggs, fermented dairy and white meats, with a major emphasis on omega 3 fats. Red wine and some alcohol are welcomed in moderation, and sweets are typically enjoyed on special occasions. This diet is known for its extensive variety of fresh (and often seasonal) foods, flexibility and lack of restriction. What many find interesting is that the Mediterranean plan is not just about the food we are consuming. In fact, this plan is a way of life that prioritizes physical activity like walking and biking, as well as eating and spending quality time with family and friends. It is thought that by following the principles of the mediterranean diet, emphasizing the consumption of fresh, quality foods with the company of family and friends, allows the body time to register satiety and hunger-cues, a principle commonly neglected in western countries, where a fast-paced lifestyle of eating on-the-go or in front of the television is our typical way of life. 

Additionally, the Mediterranean plan can be adaptable, and can account for cultural foods that are also rich in omega 3s, antioxidants and phytonutrients. 

How can the mediterranean diet plan (MDP) help boost your immune system?

Studies have found a link between adherence to the MDP and a reduction in inflammatory cytokines and proteins, suggesting an immuno-modulatory function of the diet. In fact, a review looking at the relationship between the MDP and cancer risk, found that the MDP played a direct role in slowing the progression of high-risk cervical dysplasia, and thereby protecting against cervical cancer development.

Convinced yet? Let’s get you started. 

Adopt variety.

The best part about starting a plan like this is the variety of foods that are welcome on a daily basis. We always recommend colorful fruits and vegetables, leafy and dark greens, and seasonal fruits and veggies (If you’re in North America, have you tried the peaches lately?). Luckily, variety does not just come in the form of fresh produce, but can be found in other goodies like cheeses (hard cheeses like parmesan and dips like a greek-yogurt based tzatziki). Goat and sheep-based dairy products are also often better tolerated, so give those a try too. Fish, white meats like chicken and turkey (ground, sliced, whole), and even coffee and red wine, in moderation. When finding foods to stock your fridge with, always focus on the quality of the product vs. the calorie count. High quality, minimally processed foods are a staple in the MDP. 

Set movement goals 

I know that it isn’t always easy to meet your exercise goals, but the MDP stresses the importance of movement, rather than hours in the gym. So, instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. Park further away at the grocery store, walk on the treadmill while you answer emails, get out in nature and walk amongst the trees, mountains or by water if you can. Meet a friend for a walk, do an online 20 minute yoga class, even jog on the spot between work meetings to get blood flowing. Whatever you can do, is better than doing nothing at all. 

I like to plan my days with short, 10-20 minute movement breaks. When it’s scheduled, you are more likely to follow through. You will also notice an increase in energy and focus during the day when you prioritize movement. 

Be Social

A crucial part of the MDP is eating with friends and family. Building strong relationships and breaking bread with those you love, is actually beneficial to the immune system and our ability to fight disease. 


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