Two ‘hot’ diets have emerged in the last couple years – the Mediterranean diet and the Paleo diet. Both claim to improve health and aid with weight loss. The Mediterranean diet takes after the eating habits of Mediterranean residents, whom have shown that they live longer and are healthier. The Paleo diet boasts that it is the “world’s healthiest diet, based on wholesome, contemporary foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have thrived on during the Stone Age”. So which is the better and healthier way to eat? Let’s compare the two and find out.
As mentioned earlier, the Paleo diet is (loosely) based off of what our ancestors in the Paleolithic age would have eaten. The diet aims to improve overall health, encourage weight loss and lower disease risk.
The main tenants of the Paleo Diet are as follows:
- Encourages meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and fruits (mostly berries and melons)
- Excludes grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar and salt
- Focuses on natural, wholesome, limited processed foods
- Promotes the consumption of plenty of fiber
These guidelines result is a diet that is lower in empty calorie intake, low in sodium intake, and increases satiety, and may lead to weight loss. The high consumption of fiber is a benefit for gastrointestinal function and for lowering cholesterol, however, new followers of the diet may struggle to consume increased levels of fiber. For this reason, it is recommended that fiber be increased gradually, and done in conjunction with increased water consumption. The diet is also very high in potassium, benefiting hypertension.
- Excludes multiple food groups that are actually healthy for you (such as whole grains)
- Very high in protein (too high)
- Excludes a major source of calcium – dairy products
The Mediterranean diet on the other hand is quite a bit less restrictive and more balanced. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet lowers your risk of developing many diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It may also lower your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases.
The Mediterranean food pyramid divides foods into ones you should eat at every meal, foods you should eat only once a day and foods you should have weekly.
The main tenants of the Mediterranean Diet include
- Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olives/olive oil, nuts and seeds
- Avoids starchy vegetables, red meat and processed meat
- White meat, fish and legumes fall in the middle, approx. 2 servings of each per week
- Promotes wholesome/natural foods
- Increases fruits and vegetables
- Does not restrict any major food group
- Focus on healthy, cardio-protective fats
You can learn more about the Mediterranean diet here, in a post we wrote about how to follow the diet. These main tenants lead to a very healthy and balanced way of eating. The consumption of healthy fats and fibers helps promote satiety. The diet is also rich in potassium.
- Low to moderate in protein – if you are very active, you may not be getting enough protein with this way of eating.
- Limits white meat and places fish/eggs much higher
The Mediterranean diet tied for 3rd place (along with the Mayo Clinic Diet and Weight Watchers) in a competition of 32 diets, ranked by top leading nutrition experts (if you’re curious who placed first and second, it was the DASH diet and the TLC diet).
And guess what? The Paleo diet came in last place in this competition. Many nutrition experts would agree that the Mediterranean diet is a more established and balanced way of eating for lifelong health. It is less restrictive and therefore easier to follow.
The Mediterranean Diet has also been linked to a reduced risk of getting Alzheimer’s, due to its high consumption of flavonoids. Flavonoids are naturally occurring antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress in the body, helping the mitochondria function optimally.
Alzheimer’s Disease & Mitochondria Dysfunction
Having healthy mitochondria is important to reducing the risk of getting Alzheimer’s. When our mitochondrial is unhealthy, we can experience mitochondrial dysfunction. This is what happens when the mitochondria isn’t working properly to produce cellular energy for our organs due to genetic or environmental factors.
Mitochondrial disturbances are strongly associated with aging. Mitochondria play a significant role in our bodies as the producer of ATP, a central source of cellular energy. They are critical regulators of programmed cell death during aging. However, with age, mitochondria become less efficient. Research has found that abnormalities in mitochondrial function and oxidative stress are related to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.
There is a close association between oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in brain aging and age-related neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, and this explains why several antioxidants have been used as possible treatments for Alzheimer’s. As mentioned earlier, flavonoids are shown to reduce oxidative stress. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to consume increased levels of flavonoids, which explains why there is a lower risk of Alzheimer’s in those who follow the diet.
Mitochondria function has also been improved through use of Piracatam, a nootropic which enhances mitochondria membrane fluidity, regulating mitochondria function. Piracatam has been found to stimulate synaptic function and plasticity in situations of impaired brain function. In addition, this powerful supplement has been shown to improve cognitive function in humans. It improves memory, learning and focus.
Another supplement that boosts cognition is Centrophenoxine. It is used as a memory booster and is a source of choline. It is known to enhance the effectiveness of Pircaetam, and therefore the two are usually bought together.
|Paleo (menu from bodybuilding.com)|
|Breakfast||6 oz Greek yogurt ½ cup strawberries 1 tsp honey 1 slice WW toast ½ mashed avocado||4 slices lean ham 2 cups mixed berries coffee|
|AM Snack||None||Low sodium beef jerky 1 apple 10 almonds|
|Lunch||1 WW pita 2 Tbsp hummus 1 cup fresh greens 2 slices tomato 1 cup minestrone soup 1 medium orange||4 oz salmon 2 cups salad 1 T olive oil 2 cups melon|
|PM Snack||1/8 cup sliced almonds 1/8 cup peanuts||3 oz grilled chicken 1 serving raw vegetables 2 kiwis|
|Dinner||3 oz salmon 1 tsp tarragon 1 tsp mustard ½ cup couscous ½ cup zucchini 4 spears asparagus Salad with ½ cup arugala, ½ cup baby spinach, 1 T shaved parmesan cheese, 1 T vinaigrette dressing 5 oz red wine (optional)||3 oz grilled lean steak 2 cups steamed broccoli 15 almonds|
|Dessert/PM Snack||Small bunch grapes ½ cup lemon sorbet||1 handful walnuts 1 orange 3 oz grilled fish (optional)|
|Calories: 1621 with wine, 1491 without Carbs: 194g (50.5%) Fat: 53g (31%)Protein: 71g (18.5%)Sodium: 1746 mg Fiber: 34gCholesterol: 49mg||Calories: 1796 without fishCarbs: 176g (39%) Fat: 77g (39%) Protein: 151g (34%)Sodium: 1975mg Fiber: 47gCholesterol: 237mg|