What Is A Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet originates from the diet largely followed by people in Greece, southern Italy and Spain around the 1940s and 1950s.
For thousands of years, people in the Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Spain) have enjoyed delicious Mediterranean diet recipes that resulted in lower rates of heart disease, lower rates of cancer, less type 2 diabetes, and reduced dementia. This all contributes to a longer lifespan observed in the Mediterranean.
Does that mean painful boring food? On the contrary, people in the Mediterranean love to eat and love to eat well. It just turns out that the ingredients they use are so healthy that it results in all of the health benefits above.
A recent study showed that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease by 30%. That is a significant reduction! This short 2 min video discusses the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet:
In the minds of many people, heart disease is typically associated with men. However, according to Harvard Medical School, heart disease is actually the leading cause of death for women!
The great thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it is not very restrictive. It is less a diet, and more a lifestyle choice. And once you get accustomed to it, you may not want to eat anything else. An attractive feature of this diet is that it encourages consumption of extra-virgin olive oil, nuts and even some wine, with emphasis on enjoying your food with good company.
The Mediterranean diet can of course be adopted by people in order to lose weight as well.
According to The American Journal of Medicine (source), in a trial involving 998 overweight people, those who went on the Mediterranean diet lost similar amount of weight as those on a low-carb or the American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet, losing between 9 to 22 pounds in 1 year.
What Can You Eat On A Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a very simple, yet very delicious diet focusing on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, chicken and fish. Red meat is limited to no more than a few times a month.
Most of the Mediterranean foods are fresh seasonal food and not processed. Most recipes call for simple preparation methods and foods are almost never fried.
Ingredients that Make a Dish Mediterranean
Below are popular Mediterranean diet ingredients that give the dish that special Mediterranean feel and flavor.
|Fats||Olive oil, Goat cheese (typically used in moderation)|
|Fish||Salmon, Sardines, Shrimp, Squid, Sea bass|
|Grains||Pita bread, Couscous|
|Vegetables||Eggplant, Green pepper, Red pepper, Yellow pepper, Garlic, Tomatoes, Olives|
|Herbs||Basil, Mint, Bay leaves|
|Dairy||Greek yogurt (typically used in moderation)|
Mediterranean Diet List
Below is a list of what you can eat on a Mediterranean diet. If it is not on the list, you should avoid it as much as possible.
For recommended food portions, please refer to the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid below.
- Whole grains including whole grain bread, pasta, rice
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Legumes such as lentils, beans, peas
- Herbs & spices
- Wine in moderation
- Plenty of water
|Allowed Weekly (2-3 times a week)|
- Fish and other seafood
- Poultry such as chicken, turkey, quail
- Sweets in moderation
- Red meat
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
Foods to Avoid When Going on the Mediterranean Diet
When going on this diet, make sure to avoid the following:
- Trans fats commonly found in margarine, potato chips and other packaged foods
- Too much red meat
- Too much butter
- Too much sugar
- White bread, white pasta, white rice
- Heavily processed foods
- Nuts coated with sugar or honey
- Processed meats including deli meats
Basically, stick to the foods in the Mediterranean diet list and pyramid!
A diet that is said to be very similar to the Mediterranean diet is the Sonoma Diet. The Sonoma Diet, which according to their website was inspired by a coastal California way of eating, is supposed to largely reflect the foods eaten by people who live in the Mediterranean. The diet includes lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and wine.
What Is Great About the Mediterranean Diet
- The Mediterranean diet is considered to be good for your heart
- You can eat lots of olive oil. A common way of eating bread under this diet is to dip it in olive oil.
- By following this diet, you will end up consuming lots of antioxidants from vegetables, fruits and olive oil
- This diet encourages eating lots of fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids
- You can drink wine even every day, as long as it is in moderation: up to about ½ glass of red wine a day for women and 1 glass for men
Exercise And The Mediterranean Diet
One element of the Mediterranean diet is to have some form of daily exercise. Therefore, exercise is encouraged under the Mediterranean diet.