Strict diets don’t work in the long run. According to the British Medical Journal, this has just been confirmed by a new analysis of studies examining over 21,000 people’s diets. Many of the 14 diets tested resulted in improved blood pressure and an average weight loss of around five kilos after six months. However, after a year, most of these benefits disappeared – except for the so-called Mediterranean diet. Nutritionist Dr explains what makes this type of nutrition stand out. Med. Petra Bracht (“plain text nutrition”) in an interview with the news agency spot on the news.
What makes the Mediterranean diet stand out among other diets? Why is this diet incredibly healthy?
Dr. med. Petra Bracht: This Mediterranean food tradition has developed in the regions of the European Mediterranean coasts. It was examined for the first time in the remote areas of the working rural population in Crete, which belongs to the “Blue Zones” regions where the healthiest and most centenarians of the world live. Vegetable foods are mainly eaten here, such as plenty of fresh fruit, nuts, fresh vegetables, legumes, lots of spices, olive oil, good whole-grain cereals, and fish in the coastal regions. On the other hand, meat, sausage, and dairy products are handled very sparingly. Besides, mostly only seasonal and regional foods are used.
How does the Mediterranean diet work?
Bracht: On the one hand, due to the high proportions of plant foods in the daily diet, it is extremely rich in all essential nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins. On the other hand, this diet contains fewer calories compared to the usual German average diet. Not to mention the additives, sugar, too much salt, saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones, purines, and ages such as acrylamide, which is mainly responsible for developing our diseases of civilization.
How well is this diet suitable for people who want to lose weight?
Bracht: Perfect, especially if you still do without the fish, which, incidentally, was practiced by many inhabitants of the Mediterranean region who did not live directly in the coastal area. Back then, the coasts were avoided by many because they were regularly exposed to attacks and raids. Then, in my opinion, it is one of the best diets to stay healthy and then permanently slim during the desired weight loss. There is no feared yo-yo effect, and success is guaranteed.
You can still top this Mediterranean diet by completely omitting meat, sausages, and dairy products, opting for the purely vegetable variant. The high proportion of fiber and fibers prevents hunger. Also, there are no nutritional deficiencies, as is the case with most diets. Due to the large selection of dishes and no restrictions, it can be carried out permanently. It is also possible to vary it by adding influences from Asian cuisine, in the sense of “Mediterranian.”
How do you benefit from the Mediterranean diet beyond losing weight?
Bracht: It is delicious and varied and – mostly if the fish is still missing – a very healthy diet with a high fiber content for a healthy microbiome (intestinal flora) and thus a guarantee for a well-functioning immune system. Because healthy fiber, which can only be found in plants, feeds the good intestinal bacteria and the bad ones – which would become more numerous with an increasing proportion of animal foods – must starve.
Also, the massive amounts of secondary plant substances, which are also are not found in any animal products, are necessary to maintain health and get well with existing diseases. In some cases, they work more efficiently than some medications and without any side effects. These phytochemicals are probably the most valuable health enhancers in our diet and serve to protect plants against sunburn, insects, bacteria, and viruses. It is precisely these functions that they also perform in our bodies. But be careful: conventionally grown plants contain much less of it since they are sprayed with all kinds of insecticides, etc. and the plants treated in this way no longer build up their protective mechanisms. Therefore, the plant foods should be best from organic cultivation.
Is the diet suitable for the procurement of fresh ingredients in Germany for the whole year?
Bracht: Definitely. In the meantime, there are already offers in the conventional supermarkets both from regional areas and with indications of seasonality. What I am particularly pleased about is that more and more value is placed on controlled organic cultivation. And if you love markets, you can get the right food here all year round.
Do people who are inexperienced in cooking get along with it?
Bracht: This kitchen does not take place at star level, but always had to work efficiently and quickly, fill many hungry mouths and bellies, and be inexpensive. Therefore, it is ideal for everyone who wants to get started and those who love cooking because it is an open kitchen that tastes on your plate.
In your new book, “Plain text nutrition,” you promise clarification in the jungle of food; how do you do that?
Bracht: Claus Leitzmann and I wear here our knowledge of around 75 years together on healthy eating. He, from his scientific point of view, from my practical experience. We have seen the “ups” and “downs” from a wide variety of dietary recommendations and diets, some of which have significant health effects. Exaggerated promises, disappointments, weight gain, and the development of diseases, everything was there. It is not without reason that most people die from cardiovascular diseases, which are primarily (70-80%) nutrition-related. Obesity is the visible result of an improper diet and the start of most conditions.
People are unsettled because they have never learned what to look for in a healthy diet. That is why we set out in our book “Plain Text Nutrition,” to create clarity and to write in a way that everyone can understand. It would be our greatest wish if nutrition were finally taught during medical studies and all students during school time.
Med. Petra Bracht
Dr. med. Petra Bracht has specialized in the areas of nutrition and pain for over 30 years. Her work, “Plain Text Nutrition,” which she collaborated with Prof. Dr. Claus Leitzmann, has just appeared. On Wednesday, June 3rd, at 7 p.m., a live reading/discussion with Petra Bracht and Claus Leitzmann will take place on the YouTube channel of Liebscher & Bracht.