The Mediterranean diet is known for their health benefits. According to studies, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, lower mortality rates and provide various other benefits.
A brief review of the Mediterranean diet
The first thing to say about the Mediterranean diet is that it is less a diet and more a set of principles for sensible, healthy eating.
It is a plant-heavy diet relying on lots of vegetables, beans and legumes with protein from fish, poultry and cheeses. Red meats can be included but only in small amounts.
In other words, it’s about eating a little of everything and ensuring you get the healthy balance of nutrition your body needs. A rich and joyful type of diet, it has an emphasis on good food, robust flavours and wide variety.
The healthiest dishes include chickpea salads, lentil soups, baked cod, tuna meatballs and zucchini noodles. Essentially, it’s about sticking to certain principles, including:
- Consuming more vegetables, fruits, leafy greens, beans, legumes and nuts.
- Eating moderate amounts of poultry, fish and eggs in moderation.
- Devouring red meats rarely – sweets should also be consumed rarely and in much smaller amounts.
- Avoiding processed foods, sugars and any artificial ingredients.
This is a healthy, varied and natural diet with plenty of extra virgin olive oil with almost everything.
Health benefits of following the Mediterranean diet
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet come backed with extensive scientific evidence. A study from Harvard linked the Mediterranean diet to longer life expectancy .
A study of 4,600 women found that those who followed the Mediterranean were more likely to have longer telomeres. These sit at the end of chromosomes and stop them from fraying.
Every time the cell divides, they get shorter until it can no longer protect chromosomes. Longer telomeres, therefore, indicate a longer life expectancy.
It has also been found to lower the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels .
People who follow a Mediterranean diet have also been shown to be less prone to putting on weight.
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It is a good all-around diet for your health, but there is some uncertainty about what exactly makes it so good. One aspect is the reliance on beneficial fats.
The heavy use of olive oil means high levels of monosaturated fat, while there are also polyunsaturated fats in nuts, seeds and oily fish.
Both are much healthier than saturated fats and have been shown to have some health benefits, including weight loss, reduced risk of diabetes and less inflammation .
Also, Mediterranean food may be consumed differently due to the lifestyle. It’s designed to be social, with people coming together to enjoy a good meal.
This can be great for our mood and general mental wellbeing, but it can also encourage people to slow down, which can reduce portion size.
Essentially, it is the combination of foods that makes the Mediterranean diet so compelling, rather than any single ingredient.
It is a simple, natural, balanced diet containing all the nutrients your body needs. As such, it’s a relatively easy way to lose weight without making a special effort to reduce calorie intake.
Diet and male fertility
Diet plays a critical role in affecting a man’s fertility. The nutrients a man consumes can directly impact the health and quality of his sperm.
For example, a diet high in processed foods and saturated fats has been linked to a lower sperm count and poor sperm motility. In contrast, a diet rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, has been associated with better sperm health .
Studies have shown that certain nutrients, such as zinc and folate, are vital for male fertility. Zinc is a mineral that plays a crucial role in sperm development and function and a zinc deficiency can lead to low sperm count and poor sperm quality .
Folate is a B vitamin necessary for DNA synthesis and repair and a folate deficiency has been linked to abnormal sperm chromosomal structure and function.
A low vitamin C diet has also been linked to poor sperm health. This vitamin is an antioxidant that can help protect sperm from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.
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Additionally, vitamin C plays a role in the production of collagen, a protein essential for sperm motility . Studies have found that men with a high intake of vitamin C had higher sperm counts and better sperm motility than men with a low intake of this vitamin.
Being overweight or obese can also negatively affect male fertility. Excess weight can lead to a condition called hyperandrogenemia, which is characterised by high levels of male hormones .
This can lead to lower sperm production and poor sperm quality. Additionally, being overweight can also lead to an increase in body fat, which can lead to a decrease in insulin sensitivity, which can negatively impact sperm production.
In contrast, maintaining a healthy body weight through regular exercise, a balanced diet and avoiding smoking and alcohol can positively impact male fertility .
Regular physical activity has been associated with an improvement in sperm quality and an increase in testosterone production, which can boost sperm production.
Similarly, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean protein, while limiting the intake of processed foods, alcohol and smoking, has been linked to improved sperm count and motility.
New research on male fertility and the Mediterranean diet
According to Monash University, University of the Sunshine Coast and University of South Australia (UniSA), the Mediterranean diet can also boost a man’s fertility .
These foods included in the Mediterranean diet have anti-inflammatory properties that increase sperm quality, enhancing couples’ chances of conceiving. Dr Evangeline Mantzioris, a researcher at UniSA, said: “Having a baby is a huge decision, but it can be very stressful if things don’t go as planned.”
Inflammation affects sperm quality, menstrual cycles and implantation in both men and women. Researchers tested whether a diet that decreases inflammation, such as the Mediterranean diet, might improve fertility.
“Our study found consistent evidence that we can improve fertility by adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet rich in polyunsaturated fats, flavonoids (found in leafy green vegetables) and limiting red and processed meat.”
Conversely, the typical Western diet is high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and animal products. Additionally, it lacks dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, and it is associated with inflammation .
An anti-inflammatory diet – such as the Mediterranean diet – is one way to increase fertility, according to the review. It is non-intrusive and affordable to modify your diet to improve fertility.
There is still more research to be done, but at the very least, switching to a Mediterranean diet will improve your overall health and your chances of conceiving.
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