Specifically for the food on our table, we should consider not only the energy density but also the nutrient density. For modern people who do not exercise much, the best food choice is low energy density and high nutrient density. If it is a manual laborer, it should be a high energy density and high nutrient density.
By energy density, we mean how much energy nutrients are provided to the cells per unit volume. For example, if you compare steamed buns with fried buns, the latter is definitely more energy-dense.
Nutrient density refers to how many nutrients are contained in a unit volume.
For example, both steamed buns and dumplings contain carbohydrates, but dumplings contain meat, oil, and vegetables, which exceeds steamed buns in energy density and nutrient density.
A bowl of rice is basically just carbohydrates and a small amount of vegetable protein, lacking most nutrients. We call such foods that have only energy and no other nutrients empty energy foods, such as white rice porridge, sweet drinks, steamed buns, and rice.
The dietary structure that best meets this criterion of low energy and high nutrition is the Mediterranean dietary structure. Years of clinical studies have also proven that it is the most effective way to prevent modern chronic diseases such as hypertension, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
A 10-year study by Australian researchers showed that a traditional Mediterranean-style diet can indeed protect against heart disease. They investigated the relationship between diet type and heart disease mortality in people of different origins and found that those who ate traditional Mediterranean-style foods most often had a 30 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who rarely ate Mediterranean-style foods.
A study from Greece showed that a Mediterranean-style diet may also reduce the risk of developing diabetes, especially when accompanied by a risk of heart disease.
Researchers analyzed 19 relevant studies from different countries with data collected from more than 162,000 people. The analysis showed that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruits reduced the risk of diabetes by 21 percent compared to other diets. For people at high risk of heart disease, a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the risk of diabetes by 27%.
It has been suggested that specific geographical factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle may influence the results of the study, but the combined results suggest that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of diabetes in Europeans and Africans alike. In other words, excluding environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors, the Mediterranean diet was also effective in preventing the disease when noted from the diet alone.
Comparative studies in the United States have since been done for several years and found that a Mediterranean diet can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and reduce the risk of death in patients with dementia by 73%.
A study published in the Archives of Neurology reported that the Mediterranean diet protects the brain from vascular damage and reduces the risk of stroke and memory loss. In addition, many studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet may have a preventive effect on breast cancer, reducing the incidence of breast cancer by 30%.