The Mediterranean Diet is basically a healthy eating plan that includes a lot of plant-based foods and is low in saturated and trans fat and high in monounsaturated fat and fiber. Similar to the American Heart Association’s dietary recommendations, a Mediterranean-style diet incorporates a little more good fat but less cholesterol.
Basics of the Mediterranean Diet
According to the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, a Mediterranean Diet emphasizes the following healthy eating practices:
Eating generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices and these foods should make up every meal
Consuming fish or seafood at least two times per week
Eating moderate portions of cheese and yogurt daily or weekly
Consuming poultry and eggs every two days or once per week
Limiting meats and sweets
Drinking red wine in moderation
Choosing healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
Avoiding processed foods
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
In a 12-year study of 2,5000 people following the Mediterranean Diet, researchers found those who followed the diet had a significant decrease in body weight, blood pressure, blood fats, blood sugar, and insulin levels. The Mediterranean Diet also incorporates many foods with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, blood clots, high blood pressure, and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help protect the body against certain forms of cancer and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and current studies suggest a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could also help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
The Mediterranean Diet is also rich in whole grains. Whole grains are naturally high in fiber and offer many health benefits such as reduced risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke and lowers the risk of developing certain types of cancer. In addition, whole grains have been shown to make weight management easier and those who consume healthy amounts of whole grains tend to weigh less than those who do not.
Drinking red wine in moderation (if desired) is also a part of the Mediterranean Diet. Red wine contains antioxidants and when consumed in small amount has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease.
While the Mediterranean Diet is a healthy eating plan, even good fats such as those found in nuts and olive oil should be eaten in moderation. According to the American Heart Association, fat intake should equal no more than 25 to 35 percent of total daily calories.