How Good Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a traditional diet, historically eaten by the populations that inhabit the area around the Mediterranean sea, including those in Southern France, Southern Italy, Greece and North Africa. The diet varies slightly by region, but generally contain high amounts of plant foods including green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fruit, olive oil and wine, along with fish, meat and dairy. The diet has been researched and shown to have a number of health benefits and these include protection from cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Many researchers see the Meditarranean diet as a gold standard diet because it provides such significant benefits to those who consume it. In fact, the Mediterranean Diet Index is an index that is used to score other diets in comparison to the Meditarranean diet. This is not to say that the Mediterranean diet is the best diet, as no such thing exists, however, it does indicate that the diet may provide significant improvements in health that should not be underestimated. 

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Vegetarian Versus Vegan Versus Omnivorous Diet

Studies have compared the nutritional quality of plant based and animal based diets. Generally vegan diets are highly restrictive as they exclude a large number of foods that are normally eaten. Vegan diets therefore tend to have the lowest energy intake, and this can include reductions in the amount and quality of protein. Calcium has also been shown to be below the recommended amount in vegan diets. However, they contain higher than normal levels of fibre, and score highly on the Healthy Eating Index and the Mediterranean diet score. Vegetarian diets, and variations of it including semi-vegetarians and pesco-vegetarians also score well against these indices. If an omnivorous diet that conforms to the Western diet is used, it tends to score badly against these eating indices. However, that the Mediteranean diet is an omnivorous diet and is used as a measuring stick against which to judge other diets, should show that an omnivorous diet can be healthy, as long as high quality foods are consumed.  

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Clarys, P., Deliens, T., Huybrechts, I., Deriemaeker, P., Vanaelst, B., De Keyzer, W., Hebbelinck, M. and Mullie, P. 2014. Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients. 6(3): 1318-1332
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Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)

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Saffron for Weight Loss

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How Healthy Are Vegan Diets?

Vegetarian diets are plant based diets that do not contain any animal flesh (meat), but which can contain animal products such as eggs and milk. Vegetarian diets are associated with improved health outcomes because they contain high amounts of nutrients that are known to have beneficial health effects. These beneficial nutrients include fibre, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and a range of antioxidant phytochemicals. Vegan diets are a form of vegetarian diet that contains no animal products whatsoever and as a result some of the nutrients associated with these products are not present in the diet. Studies have shown that vegan diets can increase the risk of particular nutritional deficiencies including vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin B12 and high quality protein. It is recommended that vegans pay particular attention to these nutrients and consume foods that specifically contain them, or use nutritional supplements to ensure an adequate intake. 

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Craig, W. J. 2009. Health effects of vegan diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 89(5): 1627S-1633S
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Don’t Be Fooled By Clever Marketing

Nutrition is a complex subject and can appear confusing to the untrained. However, the central pillar of nutrition is that for food to be nutritious, it should be unrefined and in its original plant or animal form. Manufacturers of processed foods can take this unrefined food and process it so that taste is improved at the expense of nutritional value. Such processed food, when consumed regularly, can lead to ill health and can be a major cause of disease. Junk food that result from processing is often marketed as healthy using marketing tricks that make the food appear healthy. For example, junk food can use ingredients that have come from organic sources. This does not mean the food is any healthier than the same food that has come from conventional sources, as the ingredients are still highly processed. Organic crisps are in reality no more healthy than regular scrisps. But marketing the crisps as organic may persuade some that the product is of higher quality. However, the best way to remain healthy is to avoid any processed foods. 

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Polygonum multiflorum: An Anti-Inflammatory Herb

Polygonum multiflorum may have a number of therapeutic effects. Some of these effects relate to effects that phytochemicals within the plant can have on brain and central nervous system tissue. The plant tissues of Polygonum multiflorum are high in antioxidants including flavonoids and stilbenes, and this may explain the anti-inflammatory effects of the plant. Inflammation is a key component in the development of mood disorders, and so this suggests that the plant may have mood elevating effects. Stress is able to trigger the release of inflammatory components in brain tissue, and this can disrupt normal cellular function and in turn modify normal neurotransmitter production and use. This can lead to aberrations in cognitive and mood functions. Antioxidants can reduce this process through inhibition of the free radicals that are generated through the inflammatory process, and this limits the cellular damage that occurs. The anti-inflammatory effects may explain the neuroprotective effects demonstrated in the herb. 

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Lin, L., Ni, B., Lin, H., Zhang, M., Li, X., Yin, X., Qu, C. and Ni, J. 2015. Traditional usages, botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb.: a review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 159: 158-183
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Polygonum multiflorum: Brain Friendly Plant

Polygonum multiflorum is a medicinal plant that is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Extracts of the plant are high in antioxidants, and this may explain some of the therapeutic effects of the plant. An anti-ageing effect has been reported for Polygonum multiflorum which may protect cognitive function and brain health. The cognitive effects of the plant may result from its ability to inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase in brain tissue. Inhibition of this enzyme has been shown to have potential cognitive benefits through raising brain levels of acetylcholine, and this may be useful in the prevention or treatment of dementia. In addition to the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, Polygonum multiflorum may also have neuroprotective effects. The neuroprotective effects may relate to the ability of the plant to raise brain levels of acetylcholine, or may relate to the high number of antioxidants in the plant tissue. Antioxidants are neuroprotective, particularly the flavonoids which are present in the plant in high amounts. 

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RdB

Lin, L., Ni, B., Lin, H., Zhang, M., Li, X., Yin, X., Qu, C. and Ni, J. 2015. Traditional usages, botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb.: a review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 159: 158-183
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Polygonum multiflorum: Medicinal Plant

Polygonum multiflorum is a plant that is used in traditional Chinese medicine. The plant is widely grown and harvested in mountainous parts of China, where it grows as a shrub on hillsides, forests and rocky areas. It is also grown for its medicinal properties in Japan. Commonly the tuberous root is used as a medicine, but other parts of the plant may also provide some therapeutic effects. Traditional uses for the plant in a therapeutic capacity include its use as a treatment for inflammation, hyperlipidaemia and leptotrichia infection, as well as an antioxidant and anti-ageing compound. A number of phytochemicals have been identified from extracts of Polygonum multiflorum including a range of flavonoids, quinones and stilbenes. The high flavonoid and stilbene content of the plant likely explains its antioxidant capacity, and the flavonoids, quinones and stilbenes may all contribute significantly to its therapeutic medicinal effects. Phospholipids in the plant may also provide therapeutic value. 

Resveratrol is a stilbene that is found in grapes and it may give red wine its medicinal properties. Resveratrol is present in Polygonum multiflorum along with other stilbenes including polydatin and rhaponticoside. The quinones present in Polygonum multiflorum represent the anthraquinones group including emodin, aloe-emodin, chrysophanol, physcion, rhein, 1,6-dimethyl ether-emodin, emodin-8-methyl ether, citreorosein, citreorosein-8-methyl ether, emodin3-methyl ether fallacinol, emodin-6,8-dimethylether and 2-acetylemodin. The flavonoids present in Polygonum multiflorum include tricin, rutin, luteolin, quercetin, kaempferol, isoorientin, apigenin, hyperoside, catechins, vitexin and quercetin-3-O-arabinoside. Phospholipids include phosphatidylethanolamine, copaene, eicosane, hexanoic acid, hexadecanoic acid methyl ester, hexadecanoic acid ethyl ester, octadecanoic acid methyl ester, octadecanoic acid ethyl ester, ethyl oleate, docosanoic acid methyl ester, tetradecanoic acid ethyl ester and squalene. Image from Lin et al (2015).

Eat Well, Stay Healthy, Protect Yourself

RdB

Lin, L., Ni, B., Lin, H., Zhang, M., Li, X., Yin, X., Qu, C. and Ni, J. 2015. Traditional usages, botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb.: a review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 159: 158-183
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Green Tea Mechanisms of Weight Loss

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