Researchers say that adopting a Mediterranean-style diet has the same benefits as walking an extra 4,000 steps a day.
Experts say you can adapt to this type of diet by eating more fruits and vegetables, consuming less red meat, and cooking your own meals from scratch. They also point out that it is important to exercise regularly, even if you follow a healthy diet.

A healthy diet can be the physical equivalent of 4,000 extra steps a day for middle-aged adults. That’s according to a new study published this week in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). This study provides some of the strongest, most rigorous data to date to support the link between better diet and better fitness. The improvement in fitness seen in participants with better diets was similar to the effect of taking 4,000 more steps each day.

The researchers pointed out that cardiorespiratory fitness reflects the body’s ability to supply and use oxygen for exercise. It also incorporates the health of multiple organ systems, such as the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles. According to the researchers, these are “powerful predictors of longevity and health”. They also reported that even though people do the same amount of exercise, there are still differences in fitness, suggesting that other factors, such as diet, contribute.

How was the healthy eating study conducted?

The study examined the link between a healthy Mediterranean diet and fitness in community-dwelling adults. Researchers studied 2,380 people in the Framingham Heart Study. The average age was 54 years and 54% of the participants were women.

Participants performed a maximal cardiopulmonary exercise test on a bicycle ergometer to measure peak VO2 (the maximum rate of oxygen used by a person during exercise). They also completed the Food Frequency Questionnaire, which quantifies consumption over the past year of 126 food items ranging from never or less than once per month to ≥6 servings/day. Diet quality was assessed by the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI; 0 to 110) and the Mediterranean-style Diet Score (MDS; 0 to 25), both of which are associated with good heart health.

The researchers also quantified fasting blood levels of 201 metabolites. Higher scores indicate a higher quality diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, and healthy fats, as well as limited consumption of red meat and alcohol.

The results of the healthy eating study

Researchers looked at the link between diet and fitness after taking into account other factors such as age, gender, total daily energy intake, body mass index, smoking, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes and usual level of physical activity. The mean AHEI was around 67, while the mean MDS was around 12. Compared to the mean score, an increase of 13 points on the AHEI and almost 5 points on the MDS was associated with a peak 5% and 4% higher VO2, respectively.

Among middle-aged adults, healthy eating habits were strongly and favorably associated with physical fitness, even after accounting for usual activity levels. The relationship was similar in women and men, and more pronounced in those under 54 than in older adults. The researchers looked at the relationship between diet quality, physical fitness and metabolites, which are substances produced during digestion and released into the blood during exercise. They found 201 metabolites (amino acids) in blood samples taken from a subset of 1,154 participants, with 24 metabolites being associated with either poor diet and fitness or diet and fitness. favorable. Our metabolite data suggests that a healthy diet is associated with better metabolic health, which could be a way to improve physical fitness and exercise capacity. This is an observational study and we cannot conclude that good nutrition leads to better physical fitness, nor rule out the possibility of an inverse relationship, i.e. people in good health fitness choose to eat healthy.

The benefits of a healthy diet

A Mediterranean-style diet of fresh, whole foods and minimal processed foods, red meat, and alcohol is a great place to start. 4,000 steps is the average amount of activity that most sedentary people do during the day. With such a low level of activity, it is important to have a healthy diet. Mediterranean diets are among the most well-known diets for heart health, which is why they can have benefits comparable to those obtained by taking 4,000 steps a day. The Mediterranean diet is “rich in ingredients” that may help reduce the risk of dementia and cardiovascular disease such as heart failure or stroke.

Exercise is still important

However, it is important not to consider diet as an alternative to physical activity. Walking regularly throughout the day, even taking short five-minute breaks, can lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, while improving mood and helping to think more clearly. Walking also provides an important stimulus that can help improve balance, muscle development and bone density in the lower extremities, which is essential as we age.

There was “very good” evidence for a link between healthy eating and better fitness, regardless of a person’s fitness goals. Good nutrition can provide the energy needed to perform daily tasks better and to enjoy occasional or more rigorous activity.

The Mediterranean diet improves health, especially for people prone to high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Eating smart and healthy and being active reduces the risk of chronic disease, prevents weight gain and promotes weight loss, while improving overall well-being.

How to build a healthy daily eating plan

There are simple ways to change your eating habits to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet. Switch to olive oil. The most obvious is to replace butter if you use it, vegetable oil or canola oil with olive oil when cooking. Olive oil is less harmful to blood pressure and cholesterol than other types of cooking fats.

It helps to cook from scratch, which means using fresh basic ingredients instead of processed foods. Fish, for example salmon or white fish, along with boiled or roasted potatoes and a boiled vegetable like broccoli is another staple of the Mediterranean diet. The main advantage of cooking your own meals is that you have better control over the salt and sugar content, because you add them yourself. Salt is a major contributor to high blood pressure, while consuming a large amount of sugar can increase the risk of diabetes.

Cooking in bulk avoids quick and easy ready meals, using fresh herbs for flavor and grilling meat rather than frying it. Turkish and Greek dishes tend to use grilled rather than fried meat and fish, and there are several reasons why this is healthier. First, fried meat or fish absorbs more oil, which increases the saturated fat content. “Secondly, when grilling meat, you tend to go for leaner cuts, like chicken breast, because they hold up better on the grill and those cuts don’t have as much fat in the meat. herself.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.