Mediterranean Diet with Olive Oil Prevents Breast Cancer
You know how diet and other health fads come and go—remember when eliminating fat was all the rage? Eliminating all carbs?
Came and went.
So let’s salute the Mediterranean Diet. It came and stayed. No one has successfully debunked or even dented it.
Quite the opposite, in fact. There’s now solid new evidence of a wonderful new Mediterranean Diet benefit.
It can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
What the Mediterranean Diet is already famous for
Loaded with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and olive oil; low in dairy products, red meat, and processed anything; the Mediterranean Diet already enjoys a stellar reputation. For excellent reasons, including:
- Prevents heart disease and lowers the risk of heart attack
- Lowers bad cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
All of these are leading life-wreckers and life-enders. Adding breast cancer prevention to the list of the Mediterranean Diet’s gifts is literally a life-saver.
A simple change, a radical result
The research assigned 4,152 women with an average age of 68 to one of three eating plans:
- Mediterranean Diet; participants given supplemental extra-virgin olive oil
- Mediterranean Diet; participants given supplemental mixed nuts
- Control group given only advice to “reduce dietary fat”
The groups were followed for an average of 4.8 years. Compared with the controls, the women on the diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil had a 68 percent lower risk of breast cancer. (The women in the supplemental nuts group also saw a lower risk of breast cancer, but it was not statistically significant.)
I’ve been saying for years that health begins with diet. Here’s a dreadful disease that’s typically treated (when too late to prevent it) with a vicious arsenal of chemical and physical interventions—yet studies show that your best defense may be nothing more than a new menu.
Key players in the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is like other heart-healthy diets: plenty of fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber grains.
But remember when I cited low-fat diets as a mistake? Well, where most other heart-healthy guidelines recommend getting less than 35% of your calories from fat, the Mediterranean Diet steps up (or on) to the plate with an average of 35% to 40% of calories from fat.
That’s because the Mediterranean Diet fats come mainly from unsaturated oils—fish oils, olive oil, and nut or seed oils (macadamia nut oil or flaxseed oil) and from nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds). I’ve written often about their many wonderful protective and preventive powers. They’re on full display in the Mediterranean Diet.
Your new shopping list
The traditional Mediterranean diet wants you to eat (and you’ll love it):
- A variety of fruits and vegetables each day, such as grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, figs, olives, spinach, eggplant, beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- A variety of whole-grain foods each day—oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, pasta, and couscous
- Healthy (unsaturated) fats, such as nuts, olive oil, and some nut or seed oils like macadamia nut and flaxseed. About 35% to 40% of daily calories can come from fat, mainly from such unsaturated fats
- Limited unhealthy saturated fats, such as butter, palm oil, and coconut oil
- Limited fats from animal products, e.g., meats, dairy products made with whole milk.
- Mostly vegetarian meals that include whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables.
- Fish at least twice a week, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, or sardines—but only fresh, local, wild-caught in clean waters
- Moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products each day or weekly, such as milk, cheese, or yogurt.
- Moderate amounts of poultry and eggs weekly.
- Limited red meat—only a few times a month in very small amounts, e.g., a 3-ounce serving of meat, about the size of a deck of cards.
- Limited sweets and desserts—only a few times a week, including sugar-sweetened drinks like soda
You can also include antioxidant-rich red wine with your meal—a glass each day for women and up to 2 glasses a day for men.
For many of you, this might be a pretty dramatic change. It was for me, years ago.
Just keep two things in mind: you’ll get used to it, you’ll love it … and it can save your life.
Oops, that’s three things.
Last Updated: April 30, 2019
Originally Published: October 14, 2015