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Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer

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It offers nothing new to say we are a product of what we eat but the extent to which certain dietary patterns can prolong our lifespan is still being uncovered. One dietary pattern seems to tower up above the rest: the Mediterranean Diet. As Doctor Simon Poole, GP and author of The Real Mediterranean Diet, reported, a recent comprehensive review of the Mediterranean Diet from Harvard University described its benefits not only in preventing heart disease, obesity, allegra losing effectiveness diabetes and cancers, but also found associations with reduced mortality and with increased longevity.

What elements of the diet account for this effect or is it the combination that produces the most benefit?

“Of course, there are many foods in this traditional, colourful and tasty plant-based diet which contribute to its health benefits, including the many vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and seafoods as well as herbs and spices,” explained Doctor Simon Poole to Express.co.uk.

However, there are several individual ingredients synonymous with the Mediterranean Diet that stand out as “nutritional superstars” and may make a particular contribution to its effects, noted Doctor Poole.

Here are the five best ingredients:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

“Extra virgin olive oil is the main source of healthy monounsaturated fat in the Mediterranean Diet and a great source of vitamin E,” explained Doctor Poole.

However, as he explained, it is the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called polyphenols which are most important for health.

“High quality extra virgin olive oils which have a touch of pleasant bitterness and a peppery flavour are known to be rich in polyphenols,” explained Doctor Poole.

He continued: “The people of the Mediterranean always prepare meals with extra virgin olive oil, and the combination of polyphenols from the oil and colourful vegetables cooked together has even stronger anti-inflammatory benefits –the so-called ‘alchemy’ of Mediterranean cuisine.”

Greens

Doctor Poole said: “There is a great deal of wisdom in the old adage of ‘eat your greens’ and there are so many examples of these fibre rich plants.

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“Lettuce, spinach, chard, kale and ‘wild greens’ gathered from the sloping hills of Mediterranean islands are all vegetables rich in vitamins A, K and C, minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium as well as numerous antioxidant polyphenols.”

According to Doctor Poole, fried in extra virgin olive oil with red onions, chilies and tomatoes, greens are a tasty and inexpensive way to top up on many of these important nutrients.

Nuts

One of the numerous studies which has demonstrated the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet was the Predimed Study which showed a reduction in heart disease, strokes and overall mortality by as much as thirty percent, Doctor Poole reported.

One of the groups in the study seemed to gain additional benefits from a palm sized daily portion of unsalted nuts – about 30g of hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds.

“Not only do nuts contain plenty of fibre, but also they can be a great source of healthy fats including omega3 and omega6 polyunsaturated fats as well as vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory polyphenols,” Doctor Poole added.

Beans

Beans are great for stews, tossed over salads or pureed for dips.

“With fibre, B vitamins, minerals and antioxidant polyphenols, beans are an excellent source of protein,” noted Doctor Poole.

As he explained, beans are great for our gut microbes and also our environment as a sustainable protein source.

“They are consumed in countries where there is less reliance on meat, and some researchers believe they make an important contribution to longevity in the village tribes of Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica as well as on Greek islands in the Mediterranean, where there are an exceptional number of healthy centenarians.”

Wine

Doctor Poole said: “The regular enjoyment of a small glass or two of wine, especially red wine with a meal has been shown to be linked to longevity, but there is still debate on the subject and certainly higher intake of alcohol can be harmful.”

He continued: “The so-called ‘French paradox’ – where the people of South Western France have lower rates of heart disease despite quite high consumption of saturated fat has been attributed to antioxidant polyphenols called procyanidins in the purple colours of red grapes.”

As Doctor Poole explained, these compounds are especially high in the varieties used in Madiran and Cannonau wines in France and Sardinia.

“There are remote areas in the Sardinian mountains famous for the longevity of the inhabitants, where traditional ways of life are observed with a strong sense of community, an active lifestyle, and where a glass over local red wine is enjoyed with the typical foods of the region.”

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