Diet & Nutrition

Boost brain power and live longer on a diet pretty much based on indulging in oil all day, every day

If this diet is good enough for Penelope Cruz, it's good enough for us!

By Ellie McDonald and Katie Skelly
Celebrity diets: they're either followed religiously or slated as often as Donald Trump airs an offensive tweets (read: frequently).
However, in Penelope Cruz's case, her diet of choice is one we can all learn from (and very easily love).
According to BBC Good Food, the Mediterranean diet, which hails from the traditional culinary lifestyles of the Italians, French, Greeks and Spaniards, involves eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and beans, as well as cereal-based products like wholegrain pasta, bread and brown rice.
Not only that, but it also includes fish, white meat and some dairy products.
But the real hero of this diet is the inclusion of good-for-you fats, like the monounsaturated variety that is olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and oily fish.
Over the years, this delicious way of eating has been found to help us live better. From a happy heart to potentially living a longer life, we look at five, science-approved ways the Mediterranean diet can help you lead a healthy lifestyle.
Even as recently as earlier this month, research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed that consuming a Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of memory problems in older adults, as well as helping to improve general cognitive behaviours in this group, too.
And here are a few more of positive ways this celebrity-loved diet can better your health.
Reduce breast cancer risk
A recent study for the World Cancer Research Fund has found that following the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of one of the most deadly forms of breast cancer by as much as 40 per cent.
The potentially fatal form of the disease, that's not stimulated by sex hormone estrogen, is often harder to treat, with one third of breast cancer cases falling into this category.
“We found a strong link between the Mediterranean diet and reduced oestrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women, even in a non-Mediterranean population," says lead researcher, Prof Piet van den Brandt of Maastricht University.
"This type of breast cancer usually has a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer.”
Try this five grain salad with feta and oranges for a sweet and nutty side dish!
Be heart smart
Findings of a new clinical trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, discovered that around 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in high-risk patients should they switch to a Mediterranean diet.
“We observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk persons,” reads the study.
“The results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.”
Make your own slow-roasted olive oil tomatoes with this delicious recipe from our friends at Food To Love.
Lose weight without trying
A 2016 trial released in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology discovered that people who ate a Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who stuck to a low-fat eating plan.
"Our study shows that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetable fats, such as olive oil and nuts, had little effect on body weight or waist circumference compared to people on a low-fat diet,” says lead author Dr Ramon Estruch from the University of Barcelona, Spain.
This is “probably because people who are on fat-restricted diets tend to get more of their calories from sugar, such as soda, and unrefined grains," says Dr Hanna Bloomfield, core investigator at the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research.
If you want to incorporate fish into your diet at least twice a week, this tahini and tabouli salmon with chunky tzatziki salad will have the whole household coming back for more.
Live longer
A decade-long study of more than 4,600 healthy middle-aged women found that those who consumed the Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres.
Telomeres are stretches of DNA that protect genetic codes and sit as a sort-of protective cap that prevents chromosomes from unravelling. These shorten with age.
“Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with longer leukocyte telomere length, a marker of biological ageing,” the report concludes."The results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity."
Mediterranean dolmades with cashew tzatziki make the perfect appetiser for your next dinner party.
See clearer
New evidence has uncovered that the Mediterranean diet can indeed reduce the risk of developing neovascular, age-related macular degeneration (nvAMD), according to a study published in the journal Ophthalmology.
Across Norway, Estonia, the UK, France, Italy, Greece, and Spain, more than 5,000 people aged 65-plus had their data collected. They found that those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest odds of developing nvAMD.
Complement your vegetables with red meat, rather than the other way around. See this roasted eggplant with spiced lamb recipe for inspiration.
Maintain healthy blood pressure
A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the combination of lettuce and olive oil to work wonders in maintaining a healthy blood pressure, which is important in preventing heart disease.
Unsaturated fats found in olive oil dressings consumed with nitrate-rich veggies, like as lettuce and celery, form nitro fatty acids, which inhibit an enzyme linked to high-blood pressure.

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