YOU can have your health and eat meat too thanks to a new version of the Mediterranean diet adapted for Aussie palates.
Researchers from the University of South Australia say the Mediterranean-Pork (Med-Pork) diet provides multiple benefits for everyday Australians.
It's no secret that Aussies love their meat. In fact, we consume on average nearly 100kg of meat per person per year, putting us among the top meat consumers in the world.
But with statistics showing that most Aussies suffer from a poor diet, and red meat production adding to greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers set out to find a balance between taste preferences, environmental protection and health benefits.
Enter the Med-Pork diet, which incorporates two to three serves (250g) of fresh lean pork each week.
A typical Mediterranean diet includes extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrain breads, pastas and cereals, moderate consumption of fish and red wine, and low consumption of red meat, sweet and processed foods.
A UniSA study compared the cognitive effects of people aged 45-80 and at risk of cardiovascular disease following a Med-Pork or a low-fat diet (often prescribed to negate risk factors for cardiovascular disease), finding the Med-Pork version outperformed the low-fat diet with higher cognitive processing speeds and emotional functioning, both markers of good mental health.
"The Mediterranean diet is widely accepted as the world's healthiest diet and is renowned for delivering improved cardiovascular and cognitive health, but in Western cultures the red meat restrictions of the diet could make it hard for people to stick to," said researcher Dr Alexandra Wade.
"By adding pork to the Mediterranean diet, we're broadening the appeal of the diet while also delivering improved cognitive function.
"Improving people's processing speed shows the brain is working well.
"So, in Australia, the Med-Pork diet is an excellent lifestyle intervention where dementia is one of the leading causes of disability and the second-leading cause of death.
"Then, when you add the fact that pork production emits only a fraction of the greenhouse gases compared to beef, the Med-Pork diet is really ticking all the boxes - taste, health and environment."