Why do some cultures live longer and healthier lives?

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One of my latest school projects is to find evidence of a link between the Mediterranean diet and a reduction in the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Luckily for me, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence attesting to not just a reduction in CVD but also in other diseases as well. Well, what’s so different about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle? Turns out there’s a lot different from the traditional western ones. Okay, just to clarify, in terms of Mediterranean, I’m referring to the countries that border that sea i.e. France, Italy, Greece,  Albania,  and Italy. Remind me if I’ve missed any.

The big players in the Med Diet are omega oils found in fish and plants, freshness of foods, and wine in moderate amounts ( 1- 2 glasses with a meal). As far as diet goes check out the picture at the left and think low to no red meat,some poultry and lots of fish, olive and other nut oils, plentiful fruit and leafy greens and all eaten in moderate amounts. Gorging is not what this type of eating is about, instead it’s more focused on enjoying making and eating meals with family and friends.

The lifestyle differences are also quite obvious in these cultures who value spending time with their families and friends over a 100 hour work week any day. Leisurely meals, walking and hiking outdoors and a holidays away are crucial aspects of the lives of our Mediterranean counter-parts. Since we all know the many benefits of physical activity  and the delicious stress relief of time off, it isn’t  surprising that these cultures tend to live longer, healthier lives. So that’s all well and good but how can we as Americans reap the benefits? Well, it’s simple enough right? eat as they do!  You might try to take your vacation days to recharge yourself and your family; maybe cut back on the binge drinking and really take time to enjoy your friends over a nice multi-hour  meal or with a stroll somewhere new. Savor the moments you have to yourself to just enjoy being present with no distractions.

I’m still working on my project so I’ll let you know what I learn. In the meantime, tell me how you try to live Mediterranean!

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