Having Difficulty Following a Mediterranean Diet? Try a MedDairy Diet
Cheese lovers rejoice! A new version of the Mediterranean diet allows for several servings of dairy a day and has been shown to be just as healthy.
A new take on the classic Mediterranean diet offers some of the same health benefits while potentially making it more accessible to Americans.
Like it or not, dairy is still an important part of many western diets, including in the United States and Australia.
However, if you’re trying to stick to the Mediterranean diet as it’s intended, dairy consumption is cut to a minimum and only consumed in a few forms, such as cheese and yogurt.
The absence of dairy from the diet can make it difficult for some to adhere to it for cultural reasons in the west as well as dietary ones. (Calcium intake, for example, tends to be lower.)
However, a promising new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, makes the case that the Mediterranean diet can be supplemented with additional dairy to meet calcium needs while still providing the hallmark health benefits the diet is known for.
“Our study found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 3 servings of dairy each day meets the calcium needs of older Australians, while improving blood pressure, cholesterol, brain function, and mood,” Alexandra Wade, first author of the study and PhD candidate in the School of Health Sciences at University of South Australia, told Healthline.
“This demonstrates that the Mediterranean diet can be modified to improve sustainability and feasibility in non-Mediterranean populations, and continue to reduce risk of CVD and possibly dementia,” she added.
Cheese? Yes, please!
Wade’s study compared the health benefits of the dairy-modified (MedDairy) Mediterranean diet, which included 3-4 servings of dairy per day, with a more traditional low-fat diet in 41 participants ages 45 or older.
The participants took part in each diet intervention (MedDairy and low-fat) for 8 weeks with an 8-week washout period in between.
The MedDairy diet was associated with numerous health benefits related to lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, including improved blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by:
- a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and legumes
- primarily unrefined grains
- a high intake of monounsaturated fat (from extra virgin olive oil)
- a moderately high intake of fish
- low consumption of red meat, poultry, and sugar
- moderate dairy consumption — typically cheese and yogurt
- a moderate intake of ethanol (in the form of wine)
Prior studies have shown that the diet has been associated with dramatic health benefits, including lowering risk of stroke by as much as 39 percent, lower rates of diabetes, and lower all-cause mortality and prolonged survival in elderly people.
However, the diet tends to fall short when it comes to calcium.
According to Wade’s study, the daily amount of calcium provided by the Mediterranean diet averages between 700-820 milligrams per day (mg/day).
That falls well short of the 1,000 mg/day recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for adult men and women in the United States. For teenagers, the recommended calcium intake per day climbs to 1,300 mg.