The Atlantic Diet: Can It Be the New Healthy Epigenetic Diet?

At first glance, the Atlantic diet may seem like a differently named version of the Mediterranean diet, which is true — these two diets are very similar in many ways. The Atlantic diet, like the Mediterranean diet, includes four main ideas, such as healthy nutrition, physical activity, socialization, and sustainability, and there is scientific evidence that the Atlantic diet extends lifespan by reducing the risk of many chronic diseases. In this article, we will discuss the health effects of the Atlantic diet and how you can apply it to your lifestyle.

What is a healthy diet?

Healthy eating patterns generally include plant-based foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals, nuts, oils that are sources of omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fatty acids, and foods that contain different bioactive compounds while excluding trans fats and refined added sugars.

Examples of the most well-known healthy eating patterns are the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet. In particular, the Mediterranean diet emerged by examining the health effects of nutritional patterns naturally practiced in certain regions and embedded in local traditions. For this reason, it includes many components that affect not only nutrition but also lifestyle, such as physical activity and social life. In recent years, potentially healthy diets and lifestyles specific to some regions, such as the Nordic diet and the Southern European Atlantic diet, have gained popularity.

What is the Atlantic diet?

The Southern European Atlantic diet is the traditional diet of northern Portugal and Galicia, a region in northwestern Spain. The Atlantic diet is rich in fish, red meat, dairy products, vegetables and legumes, soups, potatoes, and whole-wheat bread and may include moderate consumption of wine. The recipes are simple, and boiling and steaming are the main culinary techniques.

There are a few fundamental differences between the Atlantic diet and the traditional Mediterranean diet. First, unlike the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet involves a higher consumption of red meat. Second, olive oil does not constitute the most important component of the Atlantic diet, while it is the main fat source of the Mediterranean diet.

However, the most important things they have in common are a high intake of vegetables and unprocessed foods and moderate consumption of wine during meals.

Considering the lifestyle similarities, they are both culinary habits of cultures that associate eating with socializing and having a good time with the people we love. In both cases, physical activity is included in daily routines.

What foods should be avoided on the Atlantic diet?

The Atlantic diet emphasizes fresh and locally sourced foods, with an abundance of seafood, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and vegetable oil. There isn't a strict set of rules for the Atlantic diet. However, some unhealthy foods should be avoided, similar to many healthy dietary approaches.

Processed foods. It is well-established in scientific studies that processed foods are the biggest dietary risk factor for many chronic diseases, cancer, and low life quality. Therefore, reducing processed foods in any diet is a healthy choice, as they contain unhealthy additives and are high in salt, sugar, and trans fats. These foods can be salty or sugary snacks, fast food, processed meats like salami, bacon, etc., pre-packaged meals, and sugary beverages, including sodas, energy drinks, and packaged fruit juices.

Refined grains. The Atlantic diet encourages the consumption of whole grains rather than refined grains like white bread, white rice, and pastries, which may lead to obesity and related health issues. You can choose whole wheat, oats, and brown rice for a higher nutritional content.

Excessive alcohol. While moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine, is often associated with the Atlantic diet, excessive alcohol intake should be avoided.

The science behind the benefits of the Atlantic diet and epigenetics

Scientific studies on the Atlantic diet strikingly reveal the health effects of this diet and lifestyle. In a study examining the relationship between the Atlantic diet and all-cause mortality, it was found that the risk of mortality was lower in the population with higher compliance with the Atlantic diet. When dietary components are examined, the Atlantic diet's emphasized moderate wine consumption had a statistically significant association with lower all-cause mortality, which could be due to the antioxidant compounds provided by wine in general. However, as excessive alcohol consumption is also harmful to the body, you can easily get similar antioxidant compounds from red fruits.

The pooled results from all the countries in southern, central, eastern, and western Europe in a study revealed that adherence to the Atlantic diet was associated with lower all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality.

Similarly, another study focused on adherence to the Atlantic diet and blood cardiovascular risk marker measurements to detect the health profile of individuals. It was seen that high adherence to the Atlantic diet is associated with low C-reactive protein, the main inflammatory marker of our body, low plasma triglycerides, low insulin, and insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) score, and low systolic blood pressure. These results emphasize how the Atlantic diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

According to the scientific evidence obtained so far, nutrition ranks first among epigenetic factors such as exercise, smoking, and environmental conditions like air pollution, stress, etc. It plays a critical role in both health and disease. It is thought that healthy diets enriched with foods of high biological value, such as the Atlantic diet, improve physiological outcomes by interfering with gene expression. Since epigenetic changes are reversible, it indicates that it is possible to use food-associated epigenetic markers, diet, and lifestyles to help prevent or treat diseases. Therefore, the Atlantic diet may have implications for disease prevention.

How to implement the Atlantic diet and lifestyle

Now, let's imagine what it would be like to eat the Atlantic diet for a day. First of all, if we are talking about Atlantic culture, you may wake up in the morning and go for a short walk. This walk may be to get some nice seaside air or, maybe, to go to local markets to buy breakfast ingredients. You can have your breakfast with whole-grain toast with avocado and smoked salmon.

One of the important features of the Atlantic lifestyle is socialization. Therefore, you may meet a friend for lunch and eat grilled mackerel or sardines with quinoa salad with mixed vegetables.

After, you may go for a run by the beach or, if the weather is nice, a swim before heading home for dinner. For dinner, your whole family gathers at the table, and you may eat baked steak with a lemon and herb marinade, roasted sweet potatoes, and mixed green salad with tomatoes and a balsamic vinaigrette. You can drink a glass of red wine with your meal.

After the meal, you can continue your family conversations or watch a fun movie together while having a snack with mixed berries or citrus fruits.

Even imagining such a day is good for our soul, right?

Dietitian's verdict on the Atlantic diet

There are scientific studies that revealed that the Atlantic diet has a positive impact on our health. If the region you live in and access to foods (such as fresh seafood) allow, you can include the Atlantic diet into your lifestyle with peace of mind.

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