Written by By Allison Chapman, CNN
No matter the size of your city, it’s hard to avoid reaching for a fast food outlet.
But if you’re looking to find some real nourishment, head back to the Mediterranean, Morocco, or parts of Eastern Europe. High in the carotenoids anthocyanins and polyphenols, these particular regions may be the only places on Earth where your food doesn’t come loaded with salt, preservatives and packaged extras. That’s thanks to a diet specifically designed to boost longevity.
On Thursday, the New York Times released the result of a recent seven-year study into the Mediterranean diet and its effects on health. Though some of the diets studied were above and beyond the Mediterranean’s recommendation — including that of Mexico — all of them provided identical benefits.
These “blue zones” may not exist
Which brings us to those published results and some findings we did find intriguing.
For one, low-fat diets like the Mediterranean have had some detractors over the years. While this is probably due to the fact that Americans equate a low-fat diet with fat, the authors of the study debunked that notion completely.
“Contrary to popular belief, the Mediterranean diet does not promote an unhealthy over-consumption of saturated fat,” they wrote. “Even though the study population were classified as non-obese and not overweight, we found no notable difference in fat intake.”
Not only that, but the researchers said low-fat diets that allow for plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables may also be a better match for living a long life than diet recommendations that call for restricting fats or restricting sugar.
However, the authors stated that Mediterranean diet recommendations for diabetics or those taking folic acid supplements may cause increased risk of heart disease. This was because these people could experience an increase in levels of folic acid that are not exactly the right kind, the researchers said.
In sum, they concluded, “The Mediterranean diet contains a balanced and balanced mixture of the healthy and unhealthy foods, and provides beneficial nutrients to human beings in all types of cultures.”
Cut the carbohydrates, eat like the natural world
Another result of the study: The Mediterranean diet was also found to increase both production of oxygen and production of nitric oxide — a factor that influences cardiovascular health.
The nutrients that are critical for building a heart will only be possible with a balanced amount of carbohydrates, the study found.
Carbohydrates that contribute to total energy supply are important. However, the European Food Safety Authority is clear that all carbohydrates, including high-quality non-starchy foods, can contribute to blood glucose levels. (While most adults should have less than 30 grams of this kind of carbohydrate per day, children have a lower ceiling at 20 grams per day).
For some, the authors write, who tend to be less sensitive to high blood sugar levels, the emphasis on legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, corn, potatoes and rice) may be important for maintaining a healthy body. Many studies have shown a relationship between beneficial properties and polyphenols. That said, the authors admit, “it is uncertain how much polyphenols in legumes influence cardiovascular disease, specifically.”
The Mediterranean diet may also improve patients’ blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors.
Exercise and get active: That’s one step to improving your diet.
And, the authors note, maintaining a balanced diet is important. “All too often, people are ‘sweating out’ fat and may overlook its protective properties, even though eating a balanced diet provides a diet that will minimize any harmful effects of excess trans fat and include the nutrients that matter to most people,” they wrote.