Following a Mediterranean Style Diet is an incredibly healthy way to eat. Studies from all over the world have indicated that you can expect to lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and increase your life expectancy. More recently, research has also shown that a Mediterranean Style diet can have a positive effect on sleep.
Following a Mediterranean Style diet is easy, as the food is delicious and recipes are often simple and easy to make. The Mediterranean Style diet is embraced in The Fast 800 online programme, so if you are interested in having access to hundreds on Mediterranean style recipes and Mediterranean style meal plans, you may want to consider joining us.
Although most of the research looking at the Mediterranean diet has focused on its impact on reducing heart disease, cancer, dementia and diabetes, in the last couple of years there have been a couple of big studies published in reputable journals, looking at its effect on sleep.
In May 2019, for example, a study in Italy looked at the link between what Italian adults are eating and how well they are sleeping. For the MEAL study, researchers collected data from 1314 men and women living in Catania, one of the largest cities on the island of Sicily. The researchers took detailed records of what the participants ate and then used the results of their completed food questionnaires to divide them into four groups, based on their M score, ranging from low to high Mediterranean diet adherence.
The participants also filled in the Pittsburgh sleep quality index, which provides the researchers with an overview of how well the participants are sleeping.
When the researchers compared what they ate with how well they slept, they found that those with a high M score were more than twice as likely to enjoy decent- quality sleep as those with a low M score. They not only slept longer, but they had a higher sleep efficiency and were less likely to have a disturbed night.
Interestingly, this was true only for those who were a healthy weight, or a bit overweight. The men and women who were obese (with a BMI over 30) were not protected from poor sleep by a healthy diet.
These findings were replicated by another big study that looked at the links between diet and sleep in more than 2000 middle-aged men and women in the US. Again, there was a clear link between participants’ M score and how well they slept.
How to follow a Mediterranean Style Diet:
The Mediterranean style diet involves incorporating the following foods:
Olive Oil: Olive Oil is one of the healthiest fats that you can eat. It contains a range of polyphenols and antioxidants, which are good at damping down inflammation, including in the brain, the breast and the gut.
Oily fish: such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are a big part of the Mediterranean Style Diet. In the case of oily fish, one of the key ingredients is omega 3, which many of us don’t get enough of in our diet.
Different coloured vegetables such as dark leafy greens and bright-red and yellow peppers form an important part of the Mediterranean way of eating. The pigments in these are made up of hundreds of different bioactive compounds or phytonutrients. These will give your gut bacteria something to chew on, as well as giving you lots of healthy nutrients and essential vitamins.
Full fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are all included in the Mediterranean Style Diet. There’s good evidence that yogurt, with live active cultures, can help improve antibiotic-associated diarrhea, may lessen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and help reduce constipation. Studies have also shown that cheese that contains live bacteria can be good for your biome.
Eggs: Eggs have been rehabilitated as a healthy staple in the diet. They contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals and high quality proteins and can improve your cholesterol & lipid profile. And if eating eggs stops you eating sugary breakfast cereal or having that muffin in the middle of the morning, then that is mission accomplished.
Nuts: These are great to cook with and also make the perfect fast food, giving an energy boost as they contain healthy slow burn oils, along with lots of lovely fibre to keep your gut happy and are a good source of protein.
Red wine: Studies have shown that drinking red wine in moderation can reduce blood pressure, CRP (a measure of inflammation) and triglyceride levels (the amount of fat circulating in the blood). Red wine has also been shown to improve gut health by increasing the levels of healthy bacteria, including Bacteriodes and Bifido bacteria, types of bacteria associated with slimness and lowering cholesterol respectively.
The Mediterranean Style Diet also involves replacing processed foods where possible with fresh whole foods and eating relatively little of the starchy foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes as these tend to have increase weight and have a negative effect on our gut bacteria, reducing the diversity of our microbiome. Swapping these foods for lentils, beans, quinoa, whole grains, brown or wild rice and buckwheat will help improve your blood sugar levels and improve your biome. If you are interested in finding out more about the Mediterranean Style diet, visit The Fast 800.