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The Healthy Atlantic Diet is the Mediterranean Diet’s more inclusive cousin

A six-month study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that the trendy Atlantic diet — based on the eating habits of people in northwestern Spain and northern Portugal — offers similar health benefits as its close and more well-known relative, the Mediterranean diet. Although both dietary lifestyles place an emphasis on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and olive oil, the Atlantic diet incorporates some dairy — particularly milk and cheese — as well as lean red meat, pork, bread, potatoes, and moderate wine consumption.

“These types of dietary patterns (Atlantic and Mediterranean diets) have the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and even cognitive decline such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and improve [gastrointestinal] function and the gut microbiome,” says Tracy Crane, PhD, RDN, co-leader of the Cancer Control Research Program of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, to Healthline.

Spanish families who followed a traditional Galicia Atlantic Diet (GALIAT) diet and took part in educational sessions and cooking classes were found to have a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those who didn’t follow the Atlantic diet. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, metabolic syndrome is when someone has three or more of the following conditions: high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, a large waistline, and low HDL cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome affects one in three American adults.

“The Atlantic diet origins trace back to the Celtic peoples inhabiting the European Atlantic Arc, encompassing areas such as northern Spain, northern Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, southern England, the Isle of Man, and the French region of Brittany,” study author Mar Calvo-Malvar, PhD, told the magazine Health.

She adds, “Like the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet emphasizes the consumption of fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, fish, and dairy products.”

What Are the Key Differences Between the Atlantic and Mediterranean Diets?

Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet, told Prevention that although the Atlantic and Mediterranean diets “appear almost identical” depending on one’s preferences, there are some key differences.

“Someone on the Atlantic diet may consume slightly more red meat, pork, or dairy compared to a strict Mediterranean diet follower,” says Gans. “I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, as both recommend plenty of antioxidant-rich, plant-based foods, such as nuts, legumes, fruit, and veggies, as well as seafood, healthy monounsaturated fats, and minimally processed foods. They both promote a lifestyle, not a strict diet plan.”

Marta Guasch-Ferré, an adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Harvard, says that both the Atlantic and Mediterranean diets foster “a sense of community” and potentially improve “the quality of life in young and older populations.” However, she noted that people need to watch their red meat intake and alcohol consumption.

“p4″>”We do know that the high consumption of these types of food is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer,” adds Guasch-Ferré.

Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle

Anne Danahy, RDN, author of The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Two, told Health that the Atlantic diet seems to have such a positive influence on people’s health because of its emphasis on plant-based foods and healthy fats like those found in olive oil.

“These can promote a healthier metabolic profile because of their fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients,” says Danahy. “As a whole, it’s a very anti-inflammatory diet.”

Danahy adds that the addition of education in the JAMA Network Open study may have influenced the results in a positive way.

“I think family education matters because it’s easier to stick to a healthy eating pattern when everyone in the house understands the benefits and eats the same way,” says Danahy. “When people in the household start to feel better and notice health benefits, they’re often encouraged to make further changes.”

Danahy adds the beauty of eating plans such as the Mediterranean and Atlantic diets is that they are both so flexible. She also stresses that there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” way of eating. Some people prefer to choose certain parts of diets that make more sense to their lifestyles. Danahy notes that the more personal a diet is to a person, the likelihood they’ll stick to the diet in the long term improves.

Jessica Cording, R.D. — a nutritionist and the author of The Little Book of Game-Changers — tells Prevention that the bottom line is that the Atlantic diet is an overall excellent lifestyle choice.

“There aren’t any major red flags or big cons,” says Cording. “It just may come with a learning curve for some people.”

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This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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