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How Healthy Is a Middle Eastern Diet?

by
author image Laura Niedziocha
Laura Niedziocha began her writing career in 2007. She has contributed material to the Stoneking Physical Therapy and Wellness Center in Lambertville, N.J., and her work has appeared in various online publications. Niedziocha graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She also has her Associate of Arts in communications from the Community College of Philadelphia.
How Healthy Is a Middle Eastern Diet?
Olive oil is a mainstay of the Middle Eastern diet. Photo Credit angelsimon/iStock/Getty Images

The Middle Eastern diet falls under the category of a Mediterranean diet, which incorporates the foods and cuisines of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean diet has garnered praise for its role in keeping the body healthy and staving off chronic disease, especially cardiovascular problems.

Characteristics

Both a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean diet emphasize the use of olive oil, fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes as primary foods. If you follow this type of diet, you eat red meat, dairy and sweets sparingly. Since saturated fat and cholesterol are only found in animal-based foods, this kind of diet is very low in both. Instead, heart-healthy fats, like the monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids provided by olive oil and fish, are the primary sources of fats. On this diet, you obtain protein from legumes and fish instead of red meat or poultry.

Coronary Health

The biggest benefit to the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean diet is its effects on your heart. The reduction in meat and animal products leads to a less consumption of saturated fats. The Lyon Diet Heart Study, as reported by the American Heart Association, analyzed the effects of diet on the coronary health of individuals who had already suffered a heart attack. Patients were placed into two groups: a Mediterranean-style diet or a prudent diet. Those on the Mediterranean diet ate less saturated fat and animal products than the prudent dieters. The results showed a 50 to 70 percent reduction in a second cardiovascular event in those following the Mediterranean diet.

Overall Health

Following a Middle Eastern diet can also benefit the health of your brain, cognition and overall mortality. An analysis published in the "British Medical Journal" in 2008 explored the overall health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. This review analyzed 12 studies that tested the effects of a Mediterranean diet on mortality, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and heart disease of a total 1.5 million people. According to this review, a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce overall mortality and mortality from cancer or heart disease, as well as your risk of developing Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.

Sample Meal Plan

If you follow a Middle Eastern diet, for breakfast, you might have a bowl of oats with a garnish of sliced almonds. For lunch, you might eat a fresh, leafy green salad topped with tuna and an olive oil and vinegar-based dressing, with a whole wheat roll on the side. For dinner, indulge in a falafel sandwich on pita topped with cucumber, beets, lettuce, tomatoes and tahini.

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