Does The Mediterranean Diet Prevent Allergies?
(BlackDoctor.org) — Are your allergies getting the best of you? Well the answer to your problems might be found in what you eat. New findings indicate that eating a Mediterranean style diet can reduce respiratory allergy and asthma symptoms.
The Link Between Diet and Allergies
Let’s take a short trip to the island of Crete. While skin allergies are common here, nasal allergies and wheezing are rare. Why?
From childhood on, the bulk of the Crete islanders’ diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and nuts. The natural foods in the Mediterranean diet are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from the oxidative damage that causes diseases, and they have immune-boosting compounds.
In a study published in the journal Thorax, researchers found that Crete islanders who ate a Mediterranean diet had fewer allergies. They noted that diet staples such as nuts, grapes, oranges, apples, and fresh tomatoes were protective against allergies.
The researchers also reported that eating margarine increased the risk of allergies and wheezing. This is because margarine is made with unhealthy fat that boosts inflammation.
How 3 Foods Fight Allergies
Here’s how the anti-inflammatory properties of some typical foods on the Mediterranean diet protect against allergies.
Nuts. These are a great source of magnesium and vitamin E. Studies show that magnesium helps increase lung function and may also protect against wheezing in patients with asthma, which causes inflammation of the lungs. Vitamin E is an immune booster and has been shown to reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections, especially the common cold. As an antioxidant, Vitamin E protects the body from damaging free radicals. Free radicals can cause oxidative tissue damage, which triggers inflammation and problems like allergies and asthma.
Apples, Oranges, and Tomatoes. These three fruits are super sources of another antioxidant, vitamin C. Researchers found that they gave protection against allergies and asthma in the Crete diet study. This is important because nearly half of people with asthma also have allergies.
Grapes. The skins of red grapes in particular are filled with antioxidants and resveratrol, which reduces inflammation in the body. The Crete diet study found that grapes gave protection against both allergies and wheezing.
Eating Fish to Reduce Allergies
The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, found in cold-water fish, algae sources, and supplements, are touted for decreasing inflammation in the body. This protects against allergies.
Our advice? Go fish. Wild salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are good sources of marine omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t eat fish, consider fish oil or omega-3 and algae supplements.
Basic Ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet:
Fresh, healthy food. The staples of the Mediterranean diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, seafood, yogurt, olive oil, and small amounts of wine. Food should be eaten in season and locally grown, and Mediterrean dieters avoid processed food.
Portion control. The Mediterranean diet focuses on small portions of high-quality food. When food tastes delicious, a little is enough because your senses have been satisfied. And healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, which are staples of the Mediterranean diet, keep you feeling fuller longer than diets that restrict fat or forbid it altogether.
Healthy fats. Unlike most diets, the Mediterranean diet doesn’t cut fat consumption across the board. Rather than limiting total fat intake, the Mediterranean diet makes wise choices about the type of fats that are used. On the menu are the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados; and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout); and fat from plant sources, like flaxseed. Limiting processed and packaged foods keeps the diet extremely low in unhealthy trans fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Olive oil. The Mediterranean people use olive oil in almost everything they eat, including pastas, breads, vegetables, salads, fish, and even cakes and pastries. It’s the principal fat in the Mediterranean diet, replacing other fats and oils, including butter and margarine. What’s so healthy about olive oil? Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that oleocanthal, a compound in olive oil, may reduce inflammation, which could help prevent conditions like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases, as well as certain cancers.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Found in abundance in the Mediterranean diet, omega-3 fatty acids are bursting with health benefits. Fatty acids have been shown to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, blood clots, hypertension, and strokes; and may prevent certain forms of cancer and lower the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
More vegetables, less meat. A diet higher in plant foods and lower in animal products has been linked to decreased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers. The traditional Mediterranean diet is practically vegetarian, with lots of fish and very little meat. As for vegetables, Mediterranean people feast on tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, capers, spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, white beans, lentils, and chick peas.
Wine. Many Mediterranean people drink a glass or two of wine each night with dinner. But portions are small, generally about three ounces (a third of a small wine glass or two shot glasses). When taken in small amounts, wine has been linked to lower rates of heart disease, likely due to the presence of antioxidants like transresveratrol and oligomeric proanthocyanidin (OPC), which keep blood circulation healthy and prevent blood clots from forming.
Whole grains. Whole grain foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, polenta, rice, and couscous are a key part of the Mediterranean diet. In their natural state, grains are full of cancer and heart disease-fighting fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. But stripping the grain’s outer layers to make white flour and white rice eliminates these benefits, reducing the healthy whole grain to little more than empty calories. Whole grains provide energy and calories with little fat, and because they’re slow to digest (thanks to their high-fiber content), they help you feel fuller longer.