Is The Atlantic Diet The New Mediterranean?
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Is The Atlantic Diet The New Mediterranean?

New research suggests this diet could help stave off disease

We’ve all heard of the Mediterranean diet, which has been widely viewed as the gold standard of eating for many years now. But what about the Atlantic diet? There’s been some buzz about this eating plan lately, following recent research suggesting it may reduce the risk of developing certain diseases. Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know.

The Atlantic Diet: Everything You Need To Know

What Is The Atlantic Diet?

Although the Atlantic diet has hit the headlines recently, it’s actually a traditional diet that has been practiced by people in northwestern Spain and Portugal for a long time. Also known as the Southern European Traditional Atlantic Diet, it has many similarities with the Mediterranean diet, focusing on whole, unprocessed foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, lean meat, legumes and olive oil. However, the Atlantic diet allows more red meat and dairy, plus starchy foods like potatoes and pasta. 

Key foods in the Atlantic diet include:

  • Olive oil
  • Fresh seasonal vegetables
  • Fresh seasonal fruit
  • Red and white wine (in moderation)
  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Milk and cheese
  • Fish and seafood
  • Lean meat, beef and pork
  • Eggs
  • Nuts, especially almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts
  • Pulses (e.g. lentils and chickpeas)

Like the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet is not just about the food: it’s a lifestyle. Mindful eating, socialising over meals and daily exercise are considered just as important as what’s on your plate. It’s also worth noting that the Atlantic diet is built around the produce available locally, so it will look different from region to region. 

UK registered nutritionist and chef Lily Keeling from recipe box delivery service Green Chef says: ‘Unlike many diets that focus on restriction, the Atlantic Diet’s emphasis is on balance. Incorporating a rich variety of nutrient-dense foods like seafood, lean meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and olive oil to create a satisfying and varied diet.’

Chicken salad and bread

Getty Images

What Does The Science Say?

A new study published in the JAMA medical journal found the Atlantic diet helps reduce risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which the NHS describes as ‘a group of health problems that put you at risk of type 2 diabetes or conditions that affect your heart or blood vessels’.

Researchers took a second look at the 2015 Galician Atlantic Diet study, a six-month clinical trial that looked into the impact of the regional diet of 250 families living in a rural town in northwestern Spain. Some families were instructed to follow the Atlantic diet, while others continued to consume their typical diet.

On close inspection of the results, they found that the Atlantic diet ‘significantly reduced’ rates of metabolic syndrome in study participants. This means those who followed the diet had a decreased risk of developing conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Similar results were found in a 2023 study which found a high adherence to the Atlantic diet lowered the risk of death of any cause, plus the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Another study looked into the reasons why the food groups included in the Atlantic diet may be beneficial. It highlighted the fact that high consumption of fish, vegetables and legumes is associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is a sign of inflammation in the body.

However, some experts have warned about over-consumption of red meat, including pork, which has been linked with a higher risk of cardiometabolic disease and certain cancers.

Overall, though, experts and nutritionists agree that the fundamentals of the Atlantic diet are positive: prioritising whole foods, choosing seasonal and local ingredients, and eating a balanced diet. As Keeling says: ‘Its effectiveness lies in promoting a sustainable lifestyle rather than temporary fixes by creating a more wholesome relationship with food that prioritises health and enjoyment. This approach isn’t about perfection; it’s about making consistent, mindful choices, by minimising processed foods while still allowing for the occasional treat without derailing progress.’

Nothing ground-breaking – but these simple principles could have a big impact.