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

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

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Well, it’s September, and a new season of routine, growth and adjustment is upon us. As much as the warm summer months can bring so much joy and peace to us, there is something new and fresh about the summer winding down, and the leaves starting to drop. September is a beautiful time to start a new approach to your health, as well. 

To preface, this blog is not about a new, restrictive diet, but rather a lifestyle change that is adaptable and provides you with a sense of freedom in your daily life, while reaching your health goals and protecting the body against disease. 

I actually don’t even like to refer to it as the mediterranean “diet” because this lifestyle plan does not actually restrict calories or major food groups, and comes with a plethora of benefits aside from weight loss (the typical goal of dieting). In fact, according to numerous epidemiological studies, the mediterranean plan can aid in protecting against chronic inflammatory diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, cognitive disorders and more. This plan is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich, which might be why it is so successful at protecting against diseases that are a result of underlying inflammation. 

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 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 help with HPV

Studies have found a link between adherence to the mediterranean diet 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 mediterranean diet and cancer risk, found that a mediterranean plan played a direct role in slowing the progression of high-risk HPV, and thereby preventing cervical cancer development, as well as an indirect protective role against the active infection turning into a cervical cancer diagnosis. 

Steps to get you started on a mediterranean diet plan

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 colourful 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 mediterranean diet plan. 

Set movement goals 

I know that it isn’t always easy to meet your exercise goals, but the mediterranean plan 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 the 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 always 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 mediterranean plan 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. A review on socialization and the immune system found that positive social experiences can reduce inflammation and enhance our antiviral responses. So, here is your sign to call up some friends and family and get together for a meal.

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