Several years ago the “Mediterranean diet” was very popular. While nutritionists say there is no specific “Mediterranean diet” the plan does has some very identifiable characteristics:

Frequently consuming virgin olive oil.

Eating a good amount of vegetables, fruits and legumes.

Consuming more high fiber foods like brown rice instead of refined carbohydrates such as white rice.

Eating fish especially oily fish three or four times a week

Eating milk, cheese and yogurt (the original cheese was fresh goat cheese) with not too much saturated fat.

Three or four eggs per week.

Moderate consumption of meat and saturated fats.

One or two small glasses of wine a day, preferably red and at the main meals.

Nuts as snacks but in moderate amounts.

In addition to the “Mediterranean diet” you also hear stories about how French people eat a high-fat diet, yummy desserts, drink wine and still have better cardiovascular health than the rest of us. Now granted part of the secret of the French diet is portion control. But one of the big differences in the French diet versus the American diet is red wine.

Red wine has been found to have many health benefits. European researchers suggest that moderate daily intake of red wine (22-32 g of alcohol) has a protective effect on all-cause mortality. In other words drinking red wine reduces the risk of death from many different diseases. Red wine consumption has been known to help your heart, prevent blood clots, prevent hardening of the arteries and lower blood pressure. These statistics all refer to moderate i.e. two glasses per day consumption. The antioxidant in red wine has been found to have various cancer-fighting benefits, and other advantages, like weight loss, and possible life extension.

As you may or may not know the antioxidant in red wine that is responsible for doing so much for our health is resveratrol. In addition to wine, resveratrol is also found in grape skins, blueberries, cranberries and other plants.

This particular antioxidant can also mimic the effects of a calorie-restricted diet. Losing weight can help your body age slower as you don’t have as much stress on your joints and your heart. A University of Wisconsin study seems to confirm this. Resveratrol can have the same effect as restricting calories by 20-30%, even if you don’t change a thing about your diet.

This substance may also reduce the amount of fat in your body. In experiments, resveratrol prevented weight gain in mice that were placed on a high fat diet, and also improved the body’s insulin function. When the body registers a lower level of caloric intake it appears to activate a class of proteins known as sirtuins that regulate metabolism; researchers have shown that other natural substances can trigger sirtuins, and resveratrol appears to be particularly good at that task. This is why resveratrol supplements can help with weight loss.

Sometimes the supplements are combined with other natural supplements that assist with weight loss such as green tea. Green tea contains powerful antioxidants called catechin polyphenols. One of them in particular, epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG for short), has been found to stimulate the metabolism and accelerate weight loss. EGCG, along with the caffeine in green tea, stimulates the central nervous system and causes fat to be released into the blood stream for the body to use as fuel. You may have heard of this process of fat being used for energy. It is called “thermogenesis”. Although caffeine alone can stimulate the metabolism this way, you should know that researchers found that the combined ingredients of green tea were much more effective at this process than just caffeine on its own.