Ever wondered why so many doctors and dieticians recommend a Mediterranean diet to prevent diseases, accelerate weight loss, and keep people healthy for longer?
The Mediterranean diet first came into popularity when researchers noted that the people living in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy and Greece, were far more healthy than Americans.
The risk of lifestyle diseases such as obesity was almost non-existent in people who lived in these regions.
We’ve always believed that how healthy you are is determined by your diet, and what you put inside your body. This is precisely what recent studies have revealed about the people living in regions near the Mediterranean Sea.
The single biggest reason why they were healthier than Americans was their diet. The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that these people used to eat back in 1960.
That being said, there is no right way to follow the Mediterranean diet. There are many countries near the Mediterranean Sea, and people in different areas ate different foods.
So, the Mediterranean diet meal that we’re going to give you in this article is just a general guideline. It’s not something that you have to follow it to a T. This element of flexibility that the diet allows is what has made it one of the most popular diets in the world.
Alright, before we get to what foods you should eat on this diet, let’s talk about how this diet could work for you.
What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
Unlike most other diets, the Mediterranean diet is not a structured diet. In fact, it is more of an eating pattern than a diet.
Have a look at this Mediterranean diet pyramid to give you a better understanding of what foods you are supposed to eat on this diet.
The pyramid emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. You can have poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation. Sweets and red meat should only be eaten occasionally.
Since the people living in the regions near the Mediterranean Sea also ate a lot of seafood, it is also recommended to eat fish and seafood a few times a week. However, this is entirely optional.
If you want to, you can also have a glass of red wine every day. Having one glass a day for women and up to 2 glasses a day for men is perfectly alright.
Red wine has a compound called resveratrol, which is the reason it has gained popularity in the health community. Resveratrol has been shown to have a positive impact on lifespan.
But red wine has so little of it that you’d have to drink thousands of glasses to make any real difference.
In addition to eating the foods mentioned above, regular physical activity is also a crucial component of the Mediterranean diet. You should consider adding walking, running, playing sports, bicycling, or any other physical activity that gets your heart rate up to your routine.
At the end of this article, we’ve got a 7-day Mediterranean diet meal plan that tells you exactly what you should eat during your first week on this diet.
What the Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet?
The reason why the Mediterranean diet is the most recommended diet by doctors is that its benefits have been verified and proven by studies several times.
Here are some of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet that have helped it earn its reputation in the medical community:
Lowered Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Evidence from extensive research suggests that a Mediterranean diet could potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A study was conducted to compare two Mediterranean diets with a control diet for five years. The results showed that after five years, the risk of cardiovascular diseases including stroke, heart attack, and death had reduced by 30% in the Mediterranean diet group compared to the control group (1).
Improved Sleep Quality
A study was conducted in 2018 to understand the effects of the Mediterranean diet on sleep. Their research suggested that the diet improved sleep quality in older adults (2). However, the diet did not seem to affect sleep quality in younger adults.
If you’re planning to get on a diet, weight loss is probably what’s most important to you. So, if you’re looking for a diet to help you lose weight, then I’ve got some good news for you!
Apart from its overall health benefits, the Mediterranean diet may also be helpful to people trying to lose weight.
Studies have shown that people who were overweight or had obesity lost more weight on the Mediterranean diet than on a low-fat diet (3). It showed that people on this diet achieved results similar to participants of standard weight loss diet, and they did so without drastically cutting down their caloric intake.
The bottom line is that the Mediterranean diet will help you lose weight, but it’s more of a long-term weight-loss strategy than a fast weight loss plan. People on this diet have lost up to 22 pounds in a year.
However, it is important to note that most people on a “lose weight quick diet plan” tend to gain back the weight they lost after the diet is over. The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, decreases your risk of gaining weight and belly fat. In other words, it’s far more sustainable.
The Mediterranean diet will help you lose weight and keep it off!
What You Should Eat On The Mediterranean Diet
Due to the variation in foods eaten in different countries, there is some controversy regarding which foods belong to the Mediterranean diet.
But the general rule is: eat a diet high in healthy plant foods and relatively low in animal foods.
However, it is recommended to eat fish and seafood at least twice a week.
Your diet should be primarily based on these healthy, unprocessed foods listed below:
- Vegetables – Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, etc.
- Fruits – Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches, etc.
- Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Legumes – Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.
- Tubers – Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc.
- Whole Grains – Whole oats, brown rice, rye, corn, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
- Fish and Seafood – Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, etc.
- Poultry – Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.
- Eggs – Chicken, quail and duck eggs.
- Dairy – Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc.
- Herbs and Spices – Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
- Healthy Fats – Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil.
The Mediterranean diet also permits moderate amounts of red wine, but you should avoid it if you are pregnant, or have trouble controlling your alcohol consumption.
You can drink coffee and tea as well. Just make sure you don’t add too much sugar in it. However, water should be your go-to beverage on this diet.
What Foods You Should Avoid
The only rule you need on remember on a Mediterranean diet is that processed foods are not good for your health.
According to that rule, these are some of the unhealthy foods and ingredients that you should avoid:
- Refined Sugar – Table sugar, soda, ice cream, etc.
- Trans Fats – Found in baked foods, fried foods, and margarine.
- Refined Grains – White bread, pasta made with refined wheat flour, etc.
- Processed Meats – Processed bacon, ham, sausages, salami, corned beef, hot dogs, etc.
- Refined Oils – Soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and canola oil.
- Highly Processed Foods – Anything that looks like it was mass-produced in a factory.
The Mediterranean diet has been associated with several health benefits, and it has virtually no side-effects.
If you think about it, the diet isn’t really introducing any new elements to your diet. All it’s doing is removing processed foods from your diet, and that can only be good for you.
This diet is also known for having hundreds of delicious and mouth-watering recipes. So, you’ll never get bored of eating the same meal over and over again.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know before you get started with the Mediterranean diet. Although this diet is safe for most people, we still recommend that you consult with your doctor before you get started.
I’m excited to hear about your results from this fantastic diet in the comments!