A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish, but low in red meat. This type of diet may also help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and some cancers.
A study published in the journal Thorax shows that children on the island of Crete rarely have allergies or asthma. The study followed the diet of 690 children.
Children who ate high levels of Mediterranean diet foods were 66 percent less likely to have runny noses and itchy eyes.
‘The startling thing about Crete is that these kids ought to have as much asthma and allergy symptoms,’ says Dr. Paul Cullinan, one of the study's authors. ‘There's something different about their lifestyle, and one obvious thing is what they eat.’
Eight out of ten of these children ate fresh fruit at least twice a day, and over two-thirds of them ate fresh vegetables at least twice a day. A daily diet of apples, oranges, and tomatoes appears to protect against allergies and asthma.
Children who ate nuts at least three times a week were less likely to wheeze. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E, the body's primary defense against cellular damage from free radicals; nuts also have high levels of magnesium, which may boost lung power.
Grapes in particular seem to protect against asthma and allergies. Red grape skin contains high levels of antioxidants as well as resveratol, a powerful polyphenol that is known to reduce inflammation.
Interestingly, high consumption of margarine doubled the chances of asthma and allergic rhinitis.
In Crete, the same percent of children have allergies, yet almost none of them exhibit symptoms of allergic rhinitis and asthma.
‘It's almost unheard of,’ says Cullinan.