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The Atlantic Diet May Be the Healthiest Diet Ever: What You Need to Know

It's linked to weight loss and a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and more

The Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest diets around, but it’s not the only eating pattern with positive effects. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Network Open finds that the Atlantic Diet might be just as — and maybe even more — beneficial (details below). Researchers say that the Atlantic Diet significantly reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome and promotes both human and planetary health. To learn more about the Atlantic Diet, we reached out to several experts. Here, they explain the diet and provide insights about its benefits.

What is the Atlantic Diet?

The Atlantic Diet is a style of eating inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, including Northern Spain and Portugal, explains Sonali Ruder, DO, an ER doctor and classically trained chef known as The Foodie Physician. “It emphasizes fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, nuts and olive oil.”

Sounds similar to the Mediterranean Diet, right? The answer is yes and no.

Mediterranean Diet vs. Atlantic Diet

Atlantic Diet: Overhead view of a large group of healthy raw food for flexitarian mediterranean diet. The composition includes salmon, chicken breast, canned tuna, cow steak, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairi products, olive oil, eggs and legumes. High resolution 42Mp studio digital capture taken with SONY A7rII and Zeiss Batis 40mm F2.0 CF lens

Dr. Ruder, who’s also the author of Cooking Well: Anti-Aging, says the Atlantic Diet and Mediterranean Diet are similar in that they both emphasize eating fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, whole grains and healthy fats. However, “the Atlantic Diet differs in that it also allows for some red meat, pork and dairy,” she explains.

Furthermore, the Atlantic Diet takes a different approach to veggies and starches. “It recommends consuming potatoes and bread instead of pasta,” says Carmelita Lombera, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant at Consumer Health Digest. “It also features brassica vegetables, which prefer cooler, northern temperatures. This includes turnip greens, turnips, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower.”

Related: This Cauliflower Steak Recipe Is So Simple + Satisfying — And It’s Ready in 25 Minutes

What the research says

The JAMA study mentioned above was conducted by Spanish researchers and featured 250 families, who were split into two groups. The first group ate a traditional Atlantic Diet for 6 months, while the second group stuck to their normal eating patterns. Afterward, scientists evaluated each diet’s effects on metabolic and environmental health.

“Those who followed the Atlantic diet had a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and liver disease,” says Nina Merel, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at the GI Alliance of Illinois. “The diet also significantly decreased weight circumference.” Indeed, according to the study, the Atlantic Diet reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome by 42%.

Another study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, found that adults aged 60 and older who followed the Atlantic Diet for at least three years were 14% less likely to experience an early death from any cause than those who didn’t.

How the Atlantic Diet contributes to good health

Those findings are pretty impressive alright, but how exactly does the Atlantic Diet contribute to good health? Let’s take a closer look at its possible benefits.

1. It reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that affect up to a third of American adults. It increases the risk of various health problems, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. In the JAMA Network Open study mentioned above, only 2.7% of participants following the Atlantic Diet developed metabolic syndrome, compared to 7.3% of participants who stuck to their regular diet.

Lombera says the Atlantic Diet also “encourages cooking methods such as steaming and boiling rather than frying.” These approaches don’t use cooking oils or other unhealthy fats, like butter, limiting calorie intake and promoting good health.

Related: Hydrogenated Oils Can Raise Your Risk of a Heart Attack, Increase Insulin Resistance + Make You Feel Sad — How to Avoid Them

2. It fights belly fat

woman measuring her belly with tape measure; Atlantic diet
Ton Photograph/Getty Images

Our waists tend to get bigger with age. This happens for various reasons, including poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and lack of sleep. Other factors can also play a role, such as genetics.

Increased waist size is often associated with excess belly fat, which raises the risk of various health problems. But the Atlantic Diet may help shrink your waistline. Consider that the participants in the JAMA Network Open study who ate an Atlantic Diet reduced their waistline by 1.79 centimeters (almost an entire inch). That’s a pretty big change in just six months!

Related: Essential Oils for Weight Loss: 6 Study-Proven Ways to Lose Belly Fat — No Diet Required!

3. It improves mental health

extended family enjoying dinner together outdoors; atlantic diet
Morsa Images/Getty Images

The Atlantic Diet places importance on the cultural and social aspects of eating. “There’s a focus on home-cooked meals, often served family style, with an emphasis on social interactions between family and friends,” explains Dr. Ruder. “It’s important to take the time to sit down, relax and enjoy eating delicious foods with others.”

It’s true! Several studies have linked family dinners to positive health outcomes. One, published in the journal Canadian Family Physician, found that eating family dinners together reduced the risk of mental health conditions, like depression, eating disorders, and violent behavior. Another, published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that adolescents who shared family meals were less likely to develop weight-related medical issues later in life.

Dr. Ruder’s advice: “Aim for at least 20 minutes at dinnertime. Turn off the TV, put away the cell phone, and focus on meaningful conversation. It’s not only fun but also good for your health!”

4. It wards off heart disease

Remember how we said that the Atlantic Diet encourages you to eat more seafood and whole grains? These foods offer many advantages, but they’re particularly beneficial in terms of cardiovascular health.

“[Whole grains] like oats, barley and rye, provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals and promote heart health and regulate blood sugar levels,” Dr. Ruder says. Likewise, “seafood like fish and shellfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that support heart health and reduce inflammation.”

It’s no wonder then that the cultures that follow the Atlantic Diet are less likely to develop heart disease. A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis assessed the diet’s effects on more than 10,000 people living in Spain. Researchers concluded that individuals on the Atlantic Diet had lower markers for inflammation, lower triglycerides (a type of cholesterol) and lower systolic blood pressure.

Related: 20 Easy Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally — No Diet or Gym Required

Who should try the Atlantic Diet?

Anyone who wants to eat healthier, more nutritious foods can benefit from trying the Atlantic Diet. However, Dr. Ruder says that “it’s always advisable to speak to your doctor if you’re considering a significant dietary change, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or dietary restrictions.” She adds that “the Atlantic Diet is generally considered a healthy eating plan, but individual medical history, nutritional needs and health goals can vary.”

Lombera echoes this advice, adding that the Atlantic Diet includes moderate amounts of red meat and pork, so you might need to make adjustments if you have type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Similarly, the diet emphasizes cruciferous vegetables, like kale, which are rich in vitamin K. “If you’re on blood thinners, like Warfarin, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage,” she says. Increased vitamin K intake can affect your medication’s efficacy.

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