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What is the Atlantic diet?

By The Health News Team | May 7, 2024
Fish and tomatoes meal with lemon in a skillet

Most people are already familiar with the Mediterranean diet — known for being the gold standard of healthy eating. But the world of nutrition is ever evolving; and now there’s a new kid on the block: the Atlantic diet.

Based on the traditional eating habits of people in northwest Spain and Portugal, the Atlantic diet promotes a lifestyle that focuses on incorporating fresh, whole foods. New research suggests that this carb-inclusive and dairy-friendly eating plan may have similar health benefits to the Mediterranean diet in protecting metabolic health and preventing chronic disease.

“Extensive scientific evidence supports the use of a whole-food, predominantly plant-based diet as an important strategy in treating and preventing chronic disease,” says Dr. Angie Neison, a board-certified family medicine, lifestyle medicine and culinary medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.

What is the Atlantic diet?

Much like the Mediterranean diet — inspired by the cuisines of Greece and Italy — the Atlantic diet focuses on fresh, seasonal and locally-sourced whole foods. This includes vegetables, fruits, seafood, nuts, whole grains and olive oil. The Atlantic diet, however, leans a little heavier on fish — especially cod — meat, potatoes and dairy products.

“Both are very similar in their dietary patterns, which include a focus on enjoying nourishing meals and incorporating a variety of plants, grains and legumes,” Dr. Neison says.

The Atlantic diet also leaves room for more red meat, which the Mediterranean diet suggests limiting or avoiding. Another key difference can be found in the carbs. While the Mediterranean diet typically allows for more pasta, the Atlantic diet embraces other starches, such as chestnuts, potatoes and bread.

In addition to boasting an array of longevity-boosting foods, the diet encourages mindful eating, socializing over meals, steady water consumption and daily physical activity. “It’s more than a diet, really,” Dr. Neison explains. “It’s a lifestyle, where whole foods, simple cooking techniques, exercise and savoring the pleasure of eating with others are constants.”

What are the health benefits of the Atlantic diet?

Although it hasn’t been studied as extensively as the Mediterranean diet, research shows following the Atlantic diet has similar health perks.

A recent study found that those who followed the Atlantic diet for a six-month period had a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome — a group of conditions that occur together and raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other health problems.

“One in three American adults have metabolic syndrome,” says Dr. Neison. “Some of the markers that make up metabolic syndrome include high blood sugar, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.”

Because it’s plant-rich and locally sourced, the Atlantic diet also helps protect the planet by contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the study’s authors noted. Diets that include more plant-based foods and fewer animal products are healthy, sustainable and good for both people and planet.

How can we incorporate the Atlantic diet into our lifestyles?

One key aspect of the Atlantic diet is its emphasis on seasonal, local foods, which differ from region to region. But even if you don’t have the same kinds of local foods in your area, the Atlantic diet can guide you toward healthy eating.

“Start with adding more plants,” Dr. Neison says. “Most Americans get less than 2.5 servings of fruits and vegetables, which is far from the five servings we should all be striving for.”

Recognition of seasonality, Dr. Neison adds, is also important. “San Diego has many year-round farmers’ markets where you can find locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables,” she says. “Embrace eating seasonally and locally — just as the Atlantic Diet encourages.”

Lastly, remember to pair your meals with some exercise, plenty of water and good company. At the end of the day, the best diets aren’t really diets, but lifestyle choices that, over time, can deliver positive health benefits.

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