Mediterranean Diet: Better, Not Best?

Gayl J. Canfield, PhD, RD


March 19, 2013

In This Article

Life Lessons

After nearly a decade of teaching healthy eating at the Pritikin Longevity Center, I can say with certainty that people can change. They really can revamp their behaviors and live better, healthier lives. But it takes much more, unfortunately, than simply handing them a diet pamphlet. What works is a solid education in several key skills for healthy living: classes in grocery shopping, reading food labels, cooking, and dining out healthfully. In addition, we provide classes that teach why these skills are so vital and how they benefit the body.

What matters, too, is taking time away from what I call the "American assault on our taste buds" -- a week or more spent eating foods that are completely free of salt, sugar, and grease, so that our palates have a chance to rediscover the good flavors of good food.

If, as a nation, we can institute educational programs like these, we can begin to empty our hospitals of patients needing angioplasties or coronary bypass surgeries; we can lighten the load of nursing facilities filled with people stricken with diabetic- and cardiovascular-related strokes, kidney failure, and amputations.

We know that the Mediterranean diet is better than the typical American diet. We also know that healthy, well-designed low-fat diets are better than the typical American diet. We need more research -- rigorous, randomized trials -- to identify not only the best diets but also the best ways to teach these diets.

In doing so, we can achieve real change across America, change that can not only curtail the staggering economic costs of chronic disease but also help people feel better and live better.