Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet gets its name from the diet pattern and cooking habits of people living around the massive Mediterranean Sea. This diet is certified to be very healthy and beneficial for various health conditions.
Specific ranking organizations place it at the top of the “Beat Diets Overall” list for 2021. It also shares the first position on the list of the “Best Diabetes Diets” and ranks as number one on the “Best Plant-Based Diets” for the year.” Notably, it is categorized as exceptionally healthy, easy to follow, and beneficial for weight loss.
Considering these, it is no surprise that researchers continue to probe further in a bid to determine the elements of this diet that make it so healthy as well as other potential benefits. Let’s now summarize findings from various clinical trials and research on the Mediterranean diet and diabetes.
The Healthy Mediterranean Diet and the Mediterranean Lifestyle
Information from the USDA suggests that a Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern comprises lots of seafood and fruits but with less dairy compared to a Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern. Its minimal amount of dairy accounts for its low vitamin D and calcium levels.
However, the Mediterranean lifestyle goes beyond the inclusion of healthy foods and unsaturated fats, and excluding refined grains, sugar, sweets, and red meat. It goes even further to include the performance of specific activities like sharing more time with family and loved ones, exercising more regularly, and laughing more often.
What Makes a Mediterranean Diet Optimal for Diabetes?
Research on the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and diabetes helps us better understand how this meal plan improves the diabetic condition, as we’ll observe in a bit.
Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Numerous research papers and clinical trials prove this beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet. Namely, in one meta-analysis that observed 122,810 subjects from eight prospective cohort studies and one randomized controlled trial, a higher degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet slashed diabetes risk by 19%. Another 2014 meta-analysis that looks at 136,846 participants from 17 research studies links a 23% lowered type 2 diabetes risk to increased adherence to this diet pattern.
Manages Blood Glucose
Due to an enhanced insulin sensitivity that results from the replacement of trans and saturated fats with unsaturated fats, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with improved blood sugar control. A Diabetes Spectrum journal paper highlights certain studies supporting this theory.
Notably, one 2010 meta-analysis confirmed that the Mediterranean type diet improved HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) and blood fasting glucose levels in type 2 diabetes patients. Other research links a reduced fasting glucose level to the intake of the Mediterranean diet compared to a low-fat one.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the many complications that can result from diabetes. Thankfully, the Mediterranean diet saves the day once again as its intake has been associated with reduced heart disease risk factors.
Remarkably, in a study covering 604 elderly patients with a history of myocardial infarction, researchers observed a 50–70% reduced risk of recurrent heart disease when they stuck to the Mediterranean diet compared to an American Heart Association (AHA) Step-I diet.
Another study focused on 848 elderly and middle-aged patients with a history of unstable angina and myocardial infarction links a 23% lowered risk of developing a first-time acute coronary syndrome event with adequate Mediterranean diet intake.
Healthy Mediterranean Diet Recipes for Diabetics
Various Mediterranean-inspired recipes are sure to improve your body’s functions. However, people with diabetes have to be extra cautious before including anything in their diet plan. With this in mind, we present some healthy recipe ideas that can benefit your health:
- Try out a Mediterranean grain bowl with some chickpeas and lentils
- Bake salmon with garlic cilantro sauce
- Greek chickpea stew is also a great option
- Combine arugula with some vibrant orange as salad
- Add some veggies to your Mediterranean sheet pan-baked shrimp
The Mediterranean diet is often recommended for people with diabetes because it packs heart-healthy nutrients and blood-sugar regulating properties while eliminating the unhealthy stuff. Moreover, it is pretty easy to follow. However, for maximal benefits, it’s advised you seek concrete advice from your doctor or dietician on how to best integrate it into your overall lifestyle.
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