Internal and external benefits abound!
Credit: Christopher Testani

There are a lot of different ways to eat. Keto, paleo, vegan, and vegetarian are just some of the many popular diet options out there, but the U.S. News and World Report ranked the old-school, tried-and-true Mediterranean diet as the healthiest of all. It has a plethora of proven benefits, from physical to mental. It's beneficial for your body and your brain, and it's proven to be the diet that can help you live longest. All of those internal benefits also have an effect on your outward appearance—glowing skin, shiny hair, high energy, clear eyes. If you're a bride-to-be looking to start a pre-wedding health regimen, you don't need to go crazy. (In fact, you shouldn't.) Just follow this nonrestrictive, healthy diet instead.

"In my opinion, the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest because it doesn't eliminate a specific food group but rather recommends eating a wide variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, herbs, fish, and spices, with a moderate amount of poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt," says dietitian Eliza Whetzel of Middleberg Nutrition. "The mostly plant-based diet limits red meat, refined grains and flour, refined oils, and other highly processed junk foods. It encourages a sense of mindful and joyful eating. I like to think of it as a 'crowding out' effect—adding the good stuff so there isn't any room left for processed junk. There are no gimmicks or specialty items—just real, whole foods."

A day of Mediterranean eating would look like this, Whetzel says: For breakfast, enjoy an omelet with spinach, tomatoes, onions, and a cup of berries. For a snack, eat two dates or an apple. For lunch, grab a salad with tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, chickpeas, cucumbers, and roasted chicken. Another snack would include unsweetened Greek yogurt with walnuts, and for dinner, choose something like roasted salmon, quinoa, roasted vegetables, avocado, and a glass of red wine.

"Physically, by removing the junk and processed foods, the body will be able to detox and process nutrients more quickly," Whetzel says. "Elimination of waste (read: lessened constipation) will be a smoother process. Common side effects are more energy, less gastrointestinal complaints, clearer skin, stronger hair and nails, less fatigue, better sleep, and improved libido."

A Mediterranean diet can also ward off stress and depression, as there is a link between processed and high-fat foods, sugar, and depression. And choosing healthier foods can also decrease the stress hormone, cortisol. "Additionally, eating a high fiber diet with more whole grains and high fiber fruits and vegetables can promote better gut health, and the gut is known as the second brain," Whetzel says. "Better gut health means the body will be able to properly create serotonin (the feel good, happy hormone). And 90 percent of the serotonin in our body is made in the gut!"


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