Experts Reveal The 4 Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet That Make The Switch Worth It

While I'll admit that I instantly become suspicious of anything labeled as a "diet," I'm totally fascinated by all things that are even remotely Italian. So when I first learned about the Mediterranean diet, I was more than happy to give it a chance. Of course, Italy isn't the only country on the Mediterranean, but any food choices that allow me to pretend I'm by the sea in Portofino are a win in my book. On top of that, the benefits of a Mediterranean diet are as plentiful as the number of cups of lemon gelato I'd gladly eat each day.

In case you need a refresher on what the Mediterranean diet consists of, it's primarily about eating plant-based foods, including whole grains, fruits, and veggies, but it also calls for small amounts of fish, as well as healthy fats like olive oil and nuts. And, true to its name, the Mediterranean diet even includes red wine in moderation, according to the Mayo Clinic. The main foods you'll be saying goodbye to if you follow this way of eating are dairy products and red meat, which isn't too bad, right? Besides, the health benefits of this diet just might be worth swapping your favorite cheeseburger for a salmon burger.

According to Eudene Harry, M.D., a board-certified doctor in emergency medicine and holistic integrative medicine and author of the book Be Iconic, reaping all of the health benefits of this diet requires a bit of a shift in your priorities. By that, she means it's important to prioritize quality nutrition over counting calories, and focus on giving your body as many nutrients as possible. "For example," she tells Elite Daily over email, "instead of using butter on your slice of whole grain toast, try dipping it in a little olive oil flavored with your favorite herbs and spices."

Making these types of simple, yet super healthy tweaks to the foods you already love to eat will help smooth out your transition to the Mediterranean diet. If it's something you're really considering, here are the benefits you'll reap from this way of eating.

You'll Improve Your "Good Cholesterol"

"This way of eating has been shown to reduce our levels of 'bad cholesterol,' [called] LDL," Dr. Harry explains. Because of the very low levels of unsaturated fat involved in most Mediterranean-diet foods, she says, your cholesterol levels will likely improve by following this eating plan.

Plus, there's plenty of evidence to back this ish up: In one study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers assigned nearly 300 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease to follow one of three different diets while monitoring their cholesterol levels. The study found that those who stuck to a Mediterranean diet, especially when supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, saw improvements in their HDL cholesterol levels (aka the "good cholesterol").

You'll Find Your Rhythm At The Gym

Julie Upton, MS, RD, a sports nutritionist and co-founder of Appetite for Health, tells Elite Daily that the Mediterranean diet is great for helping you perform your best when it comes to working out. Even if you're more casual with your fitness routine, according to Upton, the carb- and plant-heavy quality of these foods will help to boost your endurance, and it'll even soothe muscle soreness. "The plant-based foods are really important for recovery because the bioactive compounds in plant-based foods, like antioxidants, can aid in recovery," she says.

You'll Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease

Thankfully, the Mediterranean diet doesn't tell you to shy away from eating delicious fats. According to Upton, the healthy fats that are staples in the Mediterranean diet, like olive and canola oil, are great for keeping your heart pumping at its smoothest. "The low saturated fat content of the diet means that the types of fat are healthier for the heart and more likely to be burned as fuel rather than being stored as body fat," she tells Elite Daily.

You Might Just Add A Few Years To Your Life, Too

If one of your goals is to be one of those uber cool grandmas who's still living her best life throughout her older years (I can't wait, TBH), this might be the diet for you. A review published in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care examined the results of 19 different studies on the long-term health effects of the Mediterranean diet and found that, pretty much across the board, this way of eating not only leads to a longer lifespan, but can also protect you from developing certain kinds of cancer.

Personally, I don't really need an excuse to drown my food in olive oil, but knowing that it's boosting my health one bite at a time definitely doesn't hurt.