How does income affect nutrition?
A Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts and whole grains, has long been associated with positive effects on the health of the heart. Researchers recently found in a recent study that the health benefits of this diet could be limited to wealthy and educated people.
The scientists of the I.R.C.C.S. In their investigation, Neuromed Institutes in Pozzilli found that the health benefits of a so-called Mediterranean diet appear to be limited to wealthy and educated people. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "International Journal of Epidemiology".
Researchers examine almost 19,000 subjects
For their study, the Italian scientists examined the data, income and educational level of almost 19,000 male and female subjects. The experts were able to determine that a Mediterranean diet leads to an approximately 60 percent lower risk of heart disease and strokes if those affected have an increased income and improved education. Even if poorer people followed a similar diet, the results were not the same.
People with a higher income move more and go to the doctor more often
There are some habits that people with a higher income perform more often compared to people with a lower income. These include, for example, regular exercise and routine examinations by the doctor. In addition, people with a higher income smoked less frequently, the study authors explain. The researchers also took other variables into account in their study, such as the marital status and the body mass index (BMI) of the test subjects.
Food quality has a major impact on health
The results of the study showed that the wealthier participants consumed less meat but consumed more fish. In addition, these participants also consumed more whole grains compared to people with lower incomes, the doctors explain. The wealthier subjects also ate a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, which provided more antioxidants and other essential nutrients, the scientists say. Food quality is just as important for health as quantity and number of meals.
Many Mediterranean foods are not cheap
A higher income can provide access to a wider variety of foods that are typical of the Mediterranean diet, such as fruits and vegetables, say the doctors. In this way, an adequate intake of essential nutrients can be guaranteed, explains the author Giovanni de Gaetano from I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed Institute. Many of the most valuable healthy foods in a Mediterranean diet are not cheap, such as fish and high-quality olive oil.
The type of preparation affects the nutritional value
Even the methods of preparing food differed among the study participants. For example, people with higher incomes and better education reported more frequently how to prepare their vegetables in a way that the vegetables maintain their nutritional value, the scientists explain.
Costs affect the quality of the diet
The more wealthy people are, the better health care, access to a variety of different fruits and vegetables and a comprehensive understanding of the role of lifestyle and nutrition in disease prevention. The costs and access to healthy food clearly affect the quality of a person's diet and lifestyle, the experts say.
A Mediterranean diet despite a low income?
But people with a low income can also eat a Mediterranean diet. In general, there is some advice for this:
- When it comes to the quality of the diet, the more fruit and vegetables on the plate, the better. Feel free to buy various fruits and vegetables if they are on offer.
- Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. It tastes better and it is cheaper. You are more likely to eat fruit if it tastes delicious.
- Don't cook your vegetables for too long. How long vegetables are cooked can affect their nutritional value. A shorter cooking time usually leads to the least loss of nutrients.
- Buy canned goods and frozen foods. These are often more affordable than buying the same fresh product.
- You can also use other vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, as an affordable alternative to olive oil. A Mediterranean diet also includes legumes, such as dried beans and peas, which are very affordable. (as)