Runner's Guide: The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has been touted as a top diet in recent years, and it was just ranked third (tied with the Mayo Clinic Diet and Weight Watchers) for Best Overall Diet and No. 1 for Plant-Based Diets by U.S. News & World Report.

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a decreased risk for heart disease and has also been shown to help reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Some research suggests that eating a Mediterranean style diet may lower your risk for stroke, cancer and diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

In a new report from the Nurses' Health Study, researchers found that individuals with greater adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern had longer telomeres, which are a marker of aging. They also found that longer telomeres were not associated with any one single food or food group, but the dietary pattern itself. The study concluded that following such a diet can promote health and longevity.

More: Are You Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables?

What is it?

The Mediterranean diet is not a strictly defined diet, but rather a pattern of eating that is similar to the styles of each seen in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In general, these diets are rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fish (seafood) and beans are the proteins of choice, with moderate consumption of poultry, eggs and dairy and very little to no consumption of red meat. Healthy fats and seeds round out the diet, and some may allow for a daily glass of wine, as well. Sweets are also limited on this diet –in many Mediterranean countries, fruit is often the focus for dessert.

How to do it

Some runners may feel that a diet like this will be too low in carbohydrates, or they won't be able to consume enough protein on a diet that is predominantly plant-based. However, by selecting the right foods from each category, runners should have no problem meeting their energy needs on this diet.

More: A Plant-Based Diet Can Improve Performance

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About the Author

Emily Brown

Emily is a former professional runner and the 2009 U.S. cross country champion. She formerly trained with Team USA Minnesota, and is currently the resident nutritionist for RunnersConnect.net. Find her on Facebook.

Emily is a former professional runner and the 2009 U.S. cross country champion. She formerly trained with Team USA Minnesota, and is currently the resident nutritionist for RunnersConnect.net. Find her on Facebook.

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