A study has found that adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes more fruit and vegetables and less red meat, may have similar fitness benefits to walking 4,000 extra steps a day.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, studied the link between a healthy Mediterranean diet and fitness levels in 2,380 people with an average age of 54, with 54% women.

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Boost your metabolism

Participants who followed the Mediterranean-style diet, which prioritises fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish and healthy fats while limiting red meat and alcohol, had a higher VO2 max – the gold standard in measuring cardiovascular fitness – with the effect more pronounced in younger people.

Study author Dr Michael Mi said, “This study provides some of the strongest and most rigorous data thus far to support the connection that better diets may lead to higher fitness.

“Our metabolite data suggests that eating healthily is associated with better metabolic health, which could be one possible way that it leads to improved fitness and ability to exercise.”

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Prioritise mindful, healthy eating

Nutritional consultant Vanessa Ascencao said that the study provided another reason to eat healthily.

She encouraged South Africans to become more mindful and intentional about their health and well-being and to adopt a healthy eating plan that can help prevent illness and disease.

Eat fresh whole foods as close to nature as possible such as fruits, vegetables, oily fish and healthy fats. Prepare meals from scratch and increase intake of beans, legumes, brown rice, oats and lentils which are affordable sources of protein, and high in fibre, vitamins and minerals,” said Ascencao.

“Reduce intake of red meat, processed food and alcohol. Avoid smoking and get active. Walking regularly throughout the day especially after each meal can help reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels, improve muscle development and elevate mood,” added Ascencao.

“Get enough restorative sleep, manage stress and try high-quality natural supplements such as Marcus Rohrer Spirulina, which contains over a hundred vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties,” Ascencao said.