The Mediterranean diet is frequently touted as the best overall diet, famous for its heart health benefits and well-rounded food offerings. In fact, statistics show that individuals living in countries where a Mediterranean style diet is the norm tend to live longer, healthier lives (ex: Italy & Greece).
Rather than a structured diet plan, the Mediterranean diet is more of an eating pattern, or a way of eating to follow in order to reap the benefits with no set metrics to hit each day. Alongside eating whole foods, the Mediterranean diet also promotes sharing food with loved ones and daily exercise. It is a lifestyle.
It can also be an inexpensive diet with the right selections. For example, substituting meat for beans and lentils as a protein source can be less expensive.
How it works: The best way to get a great overview of the Mediterranean diet is to look at what’s known as the Mediterranean diet pyramid. The Mediterranean diet pyramid emphasizes focusing the bulk of your diet on the following foods:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
- Olive oil
- Fish and seafood multiple times per week
For those following a Mediterranean diet, it’s also recommended to consume poultry, eggs, and dairy in moderation, and to limit red meats and sweets for special occasions only. Red wine in moderation - say, one glass per day - is also recommended.
Benefits: The popularity of the Mediterranean diet is due in large part to its myriad of health benefits.
While it may help with weight loss, the Mediterranean diet’s main benefits include increased heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and the prevention and control of diabetes.
It’s widely known that the Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease, thanks to its heart-healthy foods like olive oil and nuts. Studies have shown also that this diet can decrease the risk of strokes in women.
Its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its richness in omega-3 fatty acids, also make the Mediterranean diet a popular choice for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.