For a few years now, scientists have been touting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Known for its delicious foods, the Mediterranean region and its people enjoy a culture that savours every bite and knows the value of fresh, locally procured eats. While we may love to eat Italian and Greek cuisine, is this diet really any healthier than others in terms of senior health?

It likely is, as it turns out. Recently, a group of researchers discovered that following a Mediterranean diet held numerous impacts for health and well-being. Not only does the diet appear to promote good heart health, it may actually slow signs of ageing. Here's the skinny on how a Mediterranean diet could help you age in place more happily and healthily.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Inspired by the cuisine of seaside regions such as Italy, Greece, Israel and even Egypt, the Mediterranean diet is characterised by a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains, a moderate consumption of seafood, fish and dairy, and limited amounts of meat and sugar. It is synonymous with foods such as avocado, olive oil, leafy green veggies, fruits, tomatoes, and whole-grain breads and pastas.

What does the research say?

According to the Mayo Clinic, following a Mediterranean diet can positively impact your heart and other aspects of your health.

"In fact, an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases," the reputable hospital's website claims.

New research has added even more to the story. A study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) followed a group of middle-aged women and tracked their diet choices. Women who adhere more closely to the Mediterranean style of eating had longer telomeres – the caps at the ends of DNA strands. These caps shorten with age, and long telomeres are a good indicator of longevity.

"Our findings showed that healthy eating, overall, was associated with longer telomeres," Marta Crous-Bou, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Channing Division of Network Medicine, told LiveScience. "However, the strongest association was observed among women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet."

It would appear that seniors hoping to increase their longevity, improve heart health and delay signs of ageing (not to mention eat delicious food) would be well-advised to adhere to this popular diet.

An ageing-friendly lifestyle: Mediterranean diet 101