Decades of research shows people who eat the Mediterranean diet live longer and healthier — which means happier — lives. (Getty Images)

Decades of research shows people who eat the Mediterranean diet live longer and healthier — which means happier — lives. (Getty Images)

The No. 1 recommended diet? That would be Mediterranean

A panel of experts has deemed the Mediterranean diet the heathiest way to eat. Way better than keto.

The Mediterranean diet and lifestyle became the No. 1 recommended eating pattern in January, according to U.S. News and World Reports diet rankings.

It took the lead from many healthy styles of eating, like the DASH diet, vegetarian, pescatarian, Weight Watchers and many more. The much talked-about and trending ketogenic, or keto, diet ranked 38 out of 41 diets that a panel of 23 experts evaluated.

Why did the Mediterranean diet rise to the top? Decades of research shows people who eat this way live longer and healthier — which means happier — lives.

The Mediterranean diet originated from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a delicious plant-centered eating pattern built on a foundation of whole grains, beans, peas, lentils (twice a week) vegetables, fruit, lean meats (once a week), chicken, fish (2-3 times per week) eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. Dairy is included twice a day, mainly in the form of yogurt or fermented cheeses.

This pattern of high quality, nutrient-rich foods has been linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, certain types of cancers, cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and even macular degeneration. The diet is very low in sodium, saturated fat and sweets in the form of refined carbohydrates.

I’ve been recommending the Mediterranean diet to my clients for years. I’ve even seen it work for people who want to lose weight. Many of the people I’ve worked with to help adopt the Mediterranean diet approach feel so much better eating this way.

One reason might be because of the higher fiber and healthy fat content. Fat not only adds wonderful flavors to food, it enhances the bio-availability of many nutrients and vitamins, and also takes longer to digest. Fiber provides great texture and interest to food, while at the same time being filling, helping us to eat less.

Both contribute pleasure and enjoyment to the act of eating. My clients say they feel satisfied, lose their cravings and don’t feel hungry between meals, enjoy their food more, feel full longer, have more energy and love the variety of different tastes, textures and flavors Mediterranean foods and ingredients bring to their plates.

When we enjoy our food, it makes sustaining healthy eating easier.

The way we eat matters just as much as what we choose to eat. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes slow, mindful eating at meals. Slow eating is a lifestyle habit that focuses on conversation and the actual process of eating and tasting each morsel of food. Slowing your eating can help improve your digestion and allow your gut hormones time to signal your brain to stop eating.

The Mediterranean diet is much more than just a diet — it’s a healthy lifestyle that emphasizes whole foods that are not only tasty, but deliver true health benefits for mind, body and perhaps even soul.

Disclaimer: This is for information only and not intended as personal medical advice.

Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health and wellness coach and founder of Total Health. Visit www.totalhealthrd.com or www.facebook.com/totalhealthnutrition for more.

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