What can the Atlantic diet do for your health and the planet?

The Atlantic diet, originating from the coastal regions of northwest Spain and northern Portugal, has garnered attention for its potential health benefits and environmental advantages [1].

Like the Mediterranean diet, it emphasizes fresh, local and seasonal foods, but due to its coastal roots, it emphasizes seafood more.

Health benefits

  1. Cardiovascular health: The diet’s high intake of fish and seafood, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, supports heart health by reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It also helps manage metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase heart disease and diabetes risk​ [2].
  2. Weight management: Studies indicate that the Atlantic diet can reduce waist circumference and belly fat, critical indicators linked to lower risks of chronic diseases [3]. Participants in dietary interventions saw significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and maintained stable blood pressure and blood sugar levels​.
  3. Overall nutritional benefits: The diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and moderate dairy and meat, contributing to a balanced intake of essential nutrients. The high fiber content from these foods also supports digestive health and aids in weight control.​

Environmental impact

  1. Sustainability: The Atlantic diet’s reliance on locally sourced seafood and produce helps reduce the carbon footprint associated with long-distance food transportation. This focus on regional foods supports local economies and promotes sustainable farming and fishing practices​ [4].
  2. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: The diet emphasizes fish and seafood over red meat, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are significantly higher in meat production. Moderate meat consumption within this diet additionally mitigates environmental impacts​.

Social and cultural aspects

The Atlantic diet is deeply rooted in its region’s social and cultural fabric. Food preparation and meals are often communal activities, fostering a sense of community and enhancing quality of life.

This social dimension can positively influence adherence to the diet and contribute to overall wellbeing​.

Practical tips for adopting the Atlantic diet

  1. Increase seafood intake: Gradually incorporate more fish into your diet, aiming for at least two weekly servings. Options like salmon, sardines and mackerel are rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
  2. Focus on local and seasonal produce: Whenever possible, choose fresh, locally sourced fruits, vegetables and legumes. This supports regional agriculture and ensures you are consuming nutrient-dense foods.
  3. Healthy cooking methods: Embrace cooking techniques such as steaming, boiling, grilling and baking. These methods help retain foods’ nutritional value and reduce the need for unhealthy fats​.
  4. Mindful eating and social meals: Encourage communal eating and mindful consumption, which can improve dietary habits and enhance meal enjoyment.

By integrating these elements into your lifestyle, the Atlantic diet offers a balanced eating approach that supports personal health and environmental sustainability. This diet’s adaptability to local customs and available foods makes it a practical and effective dietary choice for many people​.

Learn more about this study published in JAMA Network Open.

[1] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2814624
[2] https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/atlantic-diet-shows-benefits-for-shrinking-belly-fat-and-lowering-cholesterol/
[3] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/atlantic-diet-health-red-meat/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9919910/

Photograph:  furmanphoto/Envato
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