Research shows that a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean-Style Diet has unique power not just to restore your body’s ability to reach its ideal weight and stay there, but also to cut your risk of serious disease. As one of the most studied and healthiest diets in the world – it is at the heart of all we do.
What makes up a Low Carb Mediterranean Style Diet?
The Mediterranean-style low carb approach which we recommend in The Fast 800, is a low sugar diet, low in starchy, easily digestible carbs, but packed full of disease-fighting vitamins and flavonoids. It is rich in olive oil, fish, nuts, fruit and vegetables, but also contains lots of lovely things that down the years we have been told not to eat, such as full fat yoghurt and eggs. Avoiding sugary and starchy carbs helps control your blood sugar levels, keeping you fuller for longer. No longer is healthy eating about starvation.
Although it is derived from the eating habits of people living in Mediterranean countries, you can apply the principles of Med-style eating to a wide range of different cuisines, from Chinese or Indian through to Mexican or Scandanavian.
- The PREDIMED study followed up more than 5,000 patients who were healthy at the start of the study, but who had risk factors for cardiovascular disease. After 4.8 years, the group that followed a Mediterranean-Style Diet were 30% per cent less likely than the group following a low-fat diet to have experienced a stroke, a heart attack, or death due to other cardiovascular disease.
- The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study examined the health outcomes of more than 10,000 women aged between 57 and 61. Those on a Mediterranean-Style Diet were 46% more likely to age healthfully, defined by remaining alive beyond the age of 70 with good mental health and intact physical and cognitive function.
- In 2011, a study combined the results of 50 separate studies which measured the effect of following a Mediterranean-Style Diet on a cluster of symptoms known to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke: high blood pressure, too much “bad” and not enough “good” cholesterol, raised blood sugar and increased waist circumference. Collectively, these are termed the Metabolic Syndrome. Data showed that it was 50% less likely to develop or progress in people who followed a Mediterranean-Style Diet.
How to follow the Med-Style Diet
The Mediterranean-Style Diet succeeds where other diets fail because it isn’t just about eating less of the wrong foods – it’s about eating more of the right foods. Not only are these foods often filling, but also add all important flavour to a meal.
- Start the day with eggs: Boiled, poached, scrambled or as an omelette – they’ll keep you fuller for longer than cereal or toast. Delicious with smoked salmon and a sprinkle of chilli.
- Full-fat yoghurt is also good: Add berries, like blackberries, strawberries or blueberries, for flavour. Or a sprinkling of nuts.
- Eat more healthy fats and oils: Along with oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), consume more olive oil. A splash makes vegetables taste better and improves the absorption of vitamins. Use olive, rapeseed or coconut oil for cooking.
- Legumes, such as lentils and kidney beans: Healthy and filling.
- Use butter instead of margarine: Cheese in moderation is fine.
- Nuts are also included: They provide a good source of protein, minerals & vitamins, contain healthy fats and have a high fibre content. You nibble them, chuck them in salad or stews. They make a good low carb alternative to flour for baking by using almond or coconut flour.
However there are certain foods to look out for as well:
- It’s a low sugar diet. Cut right down on sugar, sugary treats, drinks and desserts: No more than once or twice a week and preferably less. You can use sugar substitutes like stevia and xylitol, but try to wean yourself off your sweet tooth.
- Minimise or avoid the starchy “white stuff” bread, pasta, potatoes, rice: Be wary of “brown” alternatives: the extra fibre can be negligible. Brown rice is OK, but some wholemeal breads have added sugar. Switch instead to quinoa, bulgur (cracked wheat), whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice and buckwheat.
- Low fat products: These are often filled with sugar in order to make them palatable, and are not as healthy as many people think.
- Avoid sweet fruits: Berries, apples & pears are fine, but sweet tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple, melon and bananas are full of sugar.
- Avoid most breakfast cereals: They are usually full of sugar, even the ones that contain bran. Oats are good as long as they are not the instant sort.
- Avoid snacking if possible find healthy snacks if you must: Nuts are a great source of protein and fibre. Try to avoid salted or sweetened nuts, which can be moreish. Or a few bits of chopped veg, a small amount of dark chocolate after meals (70% or more)