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The results of a 15-year study from the Annals of Internal Medicine released on Tuesday confirm the long-lasting benefits of the acclaimed Mediterranean Diet on physical, internal, and mental health.

The study, which followed over 10,000 women predominantly over the age of 50, found that women who began following the diet in midlife  “had about a 40 percent greater chance of living beyond the age of 70 and doing so healthily than those whose diets were least like the Mediterranean.”

The research mainly focused on women who began eating a mostly American style diet—steak and potatoes—and switched to the Mediterranean Diet approach.

Results show that Mediterranean-style eating habits not only improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, but also protect against heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and may even lower the risk of developing cancer.

Chris Crowley, co-author of the Younger Next Year book series, told The National Memo, “The world of nutrition and diet is agonizing. The beauty of going Mediterranean is that this stuff tastes wonderful and it truly works. How good is that? Dig in.”

The key to benefiting from a Mediterranean-style diet is just making minor changes to what we already prepare and consume. Chef Michael Friedman of the Red Hen restaurant in Washington, D.C. told NPR that switching from butter to olive oil is a great start, as is increasing daily intake of vegetables.

Other elements of the Mediterranean Diet include nuts, fruits, whole grains, and fish, while decreasing red and processed meats. Researchers also found a moderate amount of alcohol is also a healthy complement to this regimen.

According to Meir Stampfer, co-author of the study, diet also influences our mood. “I’m eating more nuts, berries and fruit, and I’m happier,” Stampfer says.

Click here for Mediterranean diet style recipes from the Mayo Clinic.

Photo: GarryKnight via Flickr

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