It's generally accepted that the folks in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments. The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control, and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods. The Mediterranean Diet may offer a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control. By following the Mediterranean Diet, you could also keep that weight off while avoiding chronic disease.
It's more than just Greek and Italian cuisine. Look for recipes from Spain, Turkey, Morocco, and other countries. Choose foods that stick to the basics: light on red meat and whole-fat dairy, with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, olive oil, and whole grains. This Moroccan recipe with chickpeas, okra, and spices fits the healthy Mediterranean profile.
When we consider our genetics and the current food environment together, a fascinating story reveals itself. The human species evolved from millions of years of genes that were trying to survive an environment that they didn’t create. As a result, humans evolved the ability to create their own environment that allows them to fulfill their needs at any given moment with minimal effort.
There has also been increased interest in the diet’s effects on aging and cognitive function. [9-11] Cell damage through stress and inflammation that can lead to age-related diseases has been linked to a specific part of DNA called telomeres. These structures naturally shorten with age, and their length size can predict life expectancy and the risk of developing age-related diseases. Telomeres with long lengths are considered protective against chronic diseases and earlier death, whereas short lengths increase risk. Antioxidants can help combat cell stress and preserve telomere length, such as by eating foods that contain antioxidants nutrients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. These foods are found in healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet.  This was demonstrated in a large cohort of 4676 healthy middle-aged women from the Nurses’ Health Study where participants who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet were found to have longer telomere length. 
Jackie Eberstein agrees: “Measure your success by a loss of inches, rather than the scale.” She advises that you accept that weight loss in middle age will be slower than when you were younger. “Remember that you are in this for the long haul. It is an investment in your health as you get older. Have patience. Your long-term goal is to make a permanent lifestyle change as well as lose the excess fat.”
This research and other data indicate that olive oil is not heart protective, Dr. Robert Vogel told Pritikin Perspective. Dr. Vogel, a cardiologist who has studied heart disease for more than 30 years, counsels his patients to “feast on fish” and other rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids instead of olive oil, and to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains every day.
But much has changed on Crete – and throughout the Mediterranean – since then. Today, the people of Crete still eat a lot of olive oil, but their intake of whole, natural foods has gone way down, as has their physical activity. The island’s new staples are meat, cheese, TV, and the Internet. Today, more than 60% of Crete’s adult population – and an alarming 50% of its children – are overweight.
The Mediterranean diet has long been one of the healthiest diets known to man. The history and tradition of the Mediterranean diet come from the historic eating and social patterns of the regions around southern Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain. Therefore the Mediterranean diet is really not even a “diet” in the way we usually think of them, more like a life-long way of eating and living. For thousands of years people living along the Mediterranean coast have indulged in a high-fiber diet of fruits and vegetables, also including quality fats and proteins in moderation, and sometimes a glass of locally made wine to complete a meal, too.
First, start with a tablespoon and increase the amount over time. Another option is to mix olive oil in a blender with a cup of warm water and the juice of a lemon. It makes it much more palatable and the lemon juice will help with the easier digestion of the oil. Plus, lemon juice has been linked to improved liver function. A healthy liver produces more bile, which in turn is needed for the proper breakdown of fats (and oils) in the small intestine.
While most people in the Mediterranean aren’t vegetarians, the diet promotes only a small consumption on meats and heavier meals — instead going for the lighter and healthier fish options across the board. This can be beneficial for those looking to lose weight and improve things such as their cholesterol, heart health and omega-3 fatty acid intake.
Hallberg and colleagues are currently in the midst of a study in which ten overweight mostly menopausal women, who have been doing low carb keto eating but whose weight loss has stalled prematurely, will spend about five days in a monitored environment. During this time the women’s food and activity will be observed and recorded and their metabolism analyzed. While studies like this have been done before, this is the first time the focus has been on women who have stalled in their weight loss on a low carb and high fat diet, Hallberg says. “Most of the other studies found it was overconsumption leading to the problem. We want to see what is happening for these women.”
Too many "legal" high-calorie foods can sabotage your keto diet. So can lots of other things. One way to pinpoint those potential glitches is through a food journal. One study found people who tracked everything they ate lost twice the amount of weight as those who didn't track what they ate. A food journal also keeps you honest and compliant with your keto plan.
“MCTs” are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. Coconut oil is one great source of MCTs — roughly 62 percent to 65 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs — but recently more concentrated “MCT oil” has also been growing in popularity.
"I start my day with coffee and heavy whipping cream. My first meal of the day is in the afternoon and is usually something small like leftovers or some eggs. It’s about getting in protein and making sure whatever I eat is quality and tastes delicious. For dinner, I have a bigger meal which is always an animal protein with a side of something green like spinach or broccoli."
The polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil act as antioxidants to rid the body of free radicals that would otherwise damage cells, or even lead to cancer. A study found that drinking olive oil inhibited colon cancer at various stages of the disease. So why not use it to fend off cancer to begin with? This is not to say that you should skip those recommended colonoscopies after age 50, but go ahead and add olive oil to your daily regimen as a preventative measure.
SOURCES: Environmental Nutrition, June 2003; May 2004; February 2005. The Journal of Pediatrics, July 1995. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, February 1997. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, July 1997. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004; 292. Food Chemistry, May 2004, vol 85; issue 3. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition January 2005. FDA News, Nov. 1, 2004. The Olive Oil Source web site.