The Mediterranean Diet

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 23. Nov. 2020

Everything you need to know about the Mediterranean Diet.

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The Mediterranean Diet has become one of the biggest diet trends in recent years, thanks to its reliance on a diverse range of healthy foods and its A+ rating by most doctors. The diet is based on the eating patterns of people in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy in the 1960s, and has been shown to have a range of health benefits from improved cardiovascular health to weight loss. Learn everything you need to know about the Mediterranean Diet below.

Table of contents

  1. What is the Mediterranean Diet?
  2. What Can I Eat?
  3. What Can I Eat Every Once in a While?
  4. What Can’t I Eat?
  5. Mediterranean Diet Advantages
  6. Mediterranean Diet Drawbacks
  7. The Low Down

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

There is no single definition of the Mediterranean Diet, but in general it relies on a largely-plant based diet high in vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and olive oil, all ingredients that have long been staples in the diets of people living in Mediterranean countries. The diet is largely plant-based and its main fat source is extra virgin olive oil, which is packed with a range of heart-healthy fats. The diet emerged in 1960, after studies began to show that heart disease was responsible for less deaths in Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece than in northern European countries and the United States. Subsequent studies have shown a litany of other health benefits from eating this way, including lower chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, strokes, type 2 diabetes and strokes. The Mediterranean Diet has also shown to be an effective weight loss tool for many. 

While there is no specific exercise component of the Mediterranean Diet, in general most practitioners suggest walking at least 40 minutes a day, also a longtime component of the lifestyle in many Mediterranean countries.

What Can I Eat?

  • Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Herbs and spices such as garlic, basil and rosemary
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Red wine (one glass a night)

What Can I Eat Every Once in a While?

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

What Can’t I Eat?

  • Red meat
  • Processed foods 
  • Refined oils (Canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, etc.)
  • Refined sugars
  • Foods with added sugars (ice cream, soda, table sugar, etc.)
  • Processed meats (hot dogs, sausages, etc.)
  • Trans fats
  • Refined grains (white bread, white pasta, etc.)

Mediterranean Diet Cookbooks

Mediterranean Diet Advantages

The Mediterranean Diet has a slew of advantages. One of the most significant ones is its positive effect on cardiovascular health, as demonstrated in numerous studies over the past decades. One of the first such studies was performed by American scientist Dr. Ancel Keys in the 1950s, who found that people living in poor parts of Mediterranean Italy in general tended to suffer a significantly lower instance of heart disease than people living in far wealthier parts of New York City. In the years since, numerous studies have supported the fact that the Mediterranean Diet can provide an array of significant benefits for our cardiovascular health, from keeping cholesterol levels at a healthy level to reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. A 2017 study also indicated the Mediterranean Diet might help prevent certain types of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also cites the Mediterranean Diet as a good way to help prevent chronic diseases.

Beyond its health benefits, the Mediterranean Diet is relatively easy to follow and includes a rich array of ingredients, making it a much easier diet to maintain in the long run than most.

Mediterranean Diet Drawbacks

The Mediterranean Diet is not for you if you’re looking for a regimented eating plan. Indeed, there is no specific set of rules when you’re following the diet, but instead a more general eating plan that emphasizes specific foods over other ones. The exercise component is also relatively vague, calling for 20-40 mins of light walking a day. If you’re looking for quick weight loss results, the Mediterranean Diet is probably not the diet for you.

That said, studies have shown that over time, the Mediterranean Diet can be helpful in losing weight, and especially in maintaining a healthy weight over a long period of time. Indeed, a 2018 study showed that those on the Mediterranean Diet for a period of 12 years in general gained less weight than those who weren’t on the diet, and had less of an increase in weight circumference.

The Low Down

If you’re looking for immediate weight loss results, the Mediterranean Diet isn’t for you. However for those in search of a long-term lifestyle change that will have a significant effect on overall health, the Mediterranean Diet is a great choice.

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