About the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet, despite its name, is less of a diet and more of an eating style.
Based on the food consumption and lifestyle habits of those living around the Mediterranean Sea, it first gained traction in North America during the '60s when researchers realized that people in that region had significantly lower cancer and heart disease rates.
What Can You Eat While Following the Mediterranean Diet?
With many countries, cultures, and traditions surrounding the Mediterranean, there is no strict definition of or standards for this diet.
It can be loosely defined as a plant-based diet that incorporates seafood, minimizes meat, and excludes processed foods. Followers of the Mediterranean diet can expect to consume the following:
- Substantial quantities of fruits and vegetables (7 - 10 servings each day)
- Seafood rich in fatty acids
- Whole grains
- Nuts and legumes
- Olive oil
Foods the Mediterranean diet suggests limiting include red meat and dairy, other than small amounts of yogurt and cheese.
Red meat and candy are commonly reserved for special occasions, while poultry, eggs, and cheeses like feta and mozzarella are consumed in moderation.
Products high in processed sugar and white flour should be avoided altogether. Other processed products like deli meats also fall in the "to avoid" category.
While it can be grouped into the larger categories of low-carb or weight-loss diets, the outcomes of this diet depend entirely on the individual adopting it and their lifestyle. It has been touted as one of the best diets for healthy eating, easiness to follow, weight loss, and most beneficial diabetes and heart conditions.
What Does a Day on the Mediterranean Diet Looks Like?
Here is a sample one-day meal plan to give you a better perspective of what you would eat on the Mediterranean diet. It requires very little cooking and meal prep, and it's mostly made with fresh ingredients and staple items from your cupboard, such as spices and olive oil.
- Whole Grain Toast
- Avocado Spread
- Poached Egg
- A handful of nuts with half a cup of strawberries
- Pan-seared Salmon
- Grilled Asparagus,
- Mixed-Greens Side Salad
- A banana
- Quinoa salad with grilled onions, eggplant, peppers
- Topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese
The Mediterranean Lifestyle
Along with the aforementioned eating habits, the Mediterranean diet is very much about lifestyle changes as well.
Both regular exercise and shared meals with family and friends are highly encouraged, as they are both important aspects of the Mediterranean culture and lifestyle.
While water should always be one's go-to drink, a glass of red wine per day for women and two for men is often incorporated into this diet as well, both for its cultural significance and due to the presence of the compound resveratrol, which has been shown to have numerous long-term health benefits (this, of course, should be avoided by those with compromised liver function or a history of alcohol addiction).
Can You Lose Weight on the Mediterranean Diet?
The sad truth about diets is that not many people think about them until their health is at stake, or it is time to lose weight. So, the main question is, how effective is the Mediterranean diet for weight loss?
Unlike some other restrictive eating patterns, the Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle. It doesn't require caloric restriction, but if you stick to the core principles of eating whole foods, ditch refined sugars and processed ingredients, and stay active, you can expect to lose some weight along the way.
What Makes the Mediterranean Diet so Attractive?
Each year, the U.S. News works with a panel of nationally recognized experts in nutrition, diet, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and food psychology to assess and rate different eating patterns. They consider several aspects to rank commercially available diets from best to worst.
These criteria include nutritional completeness, health risks, ease of compliance, heart health compatibility, diabetes-friendliness, and short and long-term weight loss potential.
The Mediterranean diet has been smashing these rankings, as it has been on the number one spot for years. (1) That's mostly because the Mediterranean diet's health benefits have been well documented through scientific research, and it is considered one of the easiest diets to follow.
Many studies found favorable outcomes of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular health. (2,3,4) It has beneficial effects on blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, inflammation, oxidative stress, and lipid profiles. (4) In addition, several meta-analyses have found other potentially exciting benefits of the Mediterranean diet, such as lowering the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, certain cancers, diabetes, and overall mortality. (5,6,7,8)
One of the possible explanations for so many positive health outcomes of this eating pattern is its diversity.
Fruits and vegetables provide many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant elements, which seem to play a vital role in our physical well-being.
In addition, healthy fats from seafood, nuts, and olive oil are also important parts of the equation.
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