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The Atlantic Diet Is Healthy, Just Maybe Ditch the Red Meat, Say Experts – VegNews

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The Mediterranean diet has long been hailed as one of the best ways to eat for our health. As the name suggests, the plant-forward pattern of eating—which prioritizes plant-based whole foods and limits the consumption of animal products—is inspired by the countries that border the Mediterranean, including Greece, France, Italy, Spain, Egypt, and Morocco. But new research suggests it may now have a rival: the Atlantic Diet.

The Atlantic diet is named in honor of, you guessed it, the countries and regions that border the Atlantic Ocean, and like the Mediterranean diet, it comes with some serious health benefits. The diet is not perfect—it does allow for a little more red meat consumption, which, according to many experts, isn’t great for our health. However, like its Mediterranean cousin, it’s also pretty plant-forward.

Find out more about one of the healthiest ways to follow the Atlantic diet below (hint: it involves more plants and less meat).

What is the Atlantic diet?

The Atlantic diet is inspired by the eating habits of people who live in Portugal and northern Spain, which borders the Atlantic (southern Spain, of course, borders the Mediterranean). It’s very similar to the Mediterranean diet in that it prioritizes fresh, locally sourced, plant-based whole foods, like fruits, beans, whole grains, and vegetables, as well as olive oil and small amounts of red wine.

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While the Mediterranean diet heavily features vegetables like bell peppers, squash, and eggplant, the Atlantic diet leans more towards turnips, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower, aka brassica vegetables that are local to the region. Potatoes and bread also feature more in the Atlantic diet, while pasta is a more prominent part of the Mediterranean way of eating.

The Atlantic diet is also a little more animal product-heavy—it features more red meat, for example, as well as seafood and dairy products.

What are the health benefits of the Atlantic diet?

New research suggests that the Atlantic diet comes with some major health benefits. A recent study, conducted by researchers in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, followed 250 families who followed the Atlantic diet for six months. The researchers eventually concluded that the Atlantic diet is associated with a 68-percent decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. 

According to the American Heart Association, metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of five conditions that may lead to a higher risk of chronic and life-threatening health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. When someone has three out of five risk factors (high blood sugar, low levels of good cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, a large waist circumference, and high blood pressure), they are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

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The National Institute of Health notes that metabolic syndrome is common in the US. In fact, it affects roughly one in three American adults.

Many experts aren’t surprised by the results of the Atlantic diet study, given how similar it is to the Mediterranean diet. “There’s broad principles that are important rather than a very exact diet,” Dariush Mozaffarian, the director of the Food is Medicine Institute at Tufts University, told The Washington Post. “The Atlantic diet is essentially 95 percent the same as the Mediterranean diet.”

Earlier this year, the Mediterranean diet was named the healthiest diet in the world by the U.S. News & World Report for the eighth year in a row. The publication compiled its 2024 diet list with the help of more than 40 nationally recognized dietitians.

“The Mediterranean diet focuses on diet quality rather than a single nutrient or food group. Numerous studies have shown that it reduces the risk of chronic health conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes while promoting longevity and improving quality of life.” —U.S. News & World Report

The healthiest Atlantic diet means more plants, less meat

One of the key reasons why the Atlantic and Mediterranean diets are likely both associated with major health benefits is their emphasis on plant-based whole foods. These foods are nutrient-dense, packed with antioxidants, and high in fiber.

“Fiber can help regulate blood sugar levels, normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, and keep your colon healthy,” Ashley Kitchens, MPH, RD, LDN told VegNews. “Whole food plant-based eaters consume about three times more fiber than someone following the standard American diet.”

The Atlantic diet features whole foods heavily, but its red meat and dairy content moves it down the healthy scale a little, according to experts.

“We know red meat can be harmful for our colon, specifically increasing our risk of colon cancer, so I’d definitely keep that moderate,” Darien Sutton MD, MBA told ABC News.

Consumption of red meat is also linked with a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In fact, last year, one study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warned that even moderate consumption of red meat could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 62 percent.

“The Southern Atlantic diet has some positive attributes,” Walter C. Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Washington Post, before noting that the health outcomes would be better if it was closer to the Mediterranean diet. “Specifically by partial replacement of red meat and dairy foods with nuts and legumes,” he clarified.

So, ultimately, if you want to follow an Atlantic diet, the research suggests it’s a great choice for our health, but maybe forget the red meat, and instead load up on cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, and other delicious Atlantic vegetables.

For more on nutrition, read:

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