All the information you need about the Mediterranean Diet
Dr. Angel Rivera
If you're looking for a healthy diet to follow, the Mediterranean diet is a great option.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating habits of people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
There are many potential benefits to this diet as it has been shown to have many health benefits, including reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
In this article, we will discuss all aspects of the Mediterranean diet, including what you eat, what foods to avoid, and the benefits you can expect to see.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional Mediterranean foods and drinks of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea like France, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and Greece.
It is not a fad diet or a weight loss plan because it is a way of eating that can be followed for a lifetime.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer while also potentially helping you lose weight and keep it off.
There are no set rules to follow but there are guidelines for the diet which we will detail below.
In general, the foods you are encouraged to eat include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish and seafood, and healthy fats such as olive oil.
What are the benefits of the Mediterranean diet?
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been well-documented. In fact, the Mediterranean diet has been named the healthiest diet in the world by U.S. News & World Report for 2019.
The Mediterranean diet has many health benefits or potential benefits, as some of the benefits may need more research to confirm their effects.
The health benefits and potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet include:
Improves heart health
One of the main health benefits of the Mediterranean diet is that it can help improve heart health and is even recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA).
The diet has been linked with a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack which is likely due to the fact that the diet is rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber which all play a role in maintaining a healthy heart.
Some studies have also shown its ability to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
Reduces the risk of cancer
The Mediterranean diet can also help reduce the risk of cancer.
Its anticancer properties are likely due to the fact that it is a diet rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals which can help protect cells from damage and prevent the formation of cancer-causing compounds such as free radicals.
The diet has been linked with a lower risk of several types of cancer including breast, colorectal, pancreas, and prostate cancer.
Helps with weight loss
The Mediterranean diet can also be helpful for those trying to lose weight or manage their weight because it is a high-fiber, low-calorie diet.
The diet is also satiating which means it can help reduce hunger and cravings, making it easier to stick to your weight loss goals.
Additionally, the healthy fats in the diet can help promote feelings of fullness.
When following the Mediterranean diet, you may not shed as many pounds as other diets; however, you will have a healthy and balanced diet that is easy to follow.
Promotes brain health
Some studies have also shown that the Mediterranean diet may be able to improve cognitive function, lower your risk for dementia, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
These potential benefits are likely due to the fact that the diet promotes a healthy inflammation response, provides antioxidant protection, and supports healthy blood sugar levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can also help promote brain health by reducing the risk of cognitive impairment.
Helps manage blood sugar levels
Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is chronic disease that can cause your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, levels to spike.
The Mediterranean diet can help manage blood sugar levels and is even recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for people with diabetes.
The diet has been linked with lower blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
What foods can you eat on the Mediterranean diet?
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, let’s take a look at what you can eat while following this way of eating.
As we mentioned before, there are no set rules to follow but there are general guidelines that make this diet very flexible.
The foods you are encouraged to eat on the Mediterranean diet include:
Fruits and vegetables
Aim for at least four servings per day of fresh fruits and vegetables. When buying a fresh fruit or vegetable, always aim to buy locally sourced organic options.
Some examples of fruits and vegetables you can eat are apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, etc.
Choose whole-grain options such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, etc. over refined grains like white bread or white rice.
Make sure to include healthy fats in your diet which can include extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Meats and fish
You can eat lean meats such as chicken and turkey. Seafood, and fish in particular, such as salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel, need to be consumed at least twice per week.
Please note that chicken and turkey can only be eaten in moderation.
Legumes are a great source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Some examples of legumes you can eat are beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas.
Cheese and yogurt can be consumed in small amounts and try to consume low-fat cheese or yogurt if possible.
Herbs and spices
Feel free to use herbs and spices to flavor your food as it is a great way to add in some extra antioxidants and flavor without adding any additional calories.
Make sure you’re staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. You can also drink unsweetened tea and coffee.
You can enjoy one glass of red wine per day with your meals as it can promote heart health.
However, any more alcohol will have diminishing returns as excessive alcohol consumption puts you at risk for other health conditions.
What foods do you need to avoid on the Mediterranean diet?
There are also some foods that you need to limit or avoid while following the Mediterranean diet. These include:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Processed meats
- Refined grains and flour
- Anything with added sugars
- Red meat
- Saturated fats
- Processed food
- Refined oils
Please note that you need to exercise and stay physically active to reap the full benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
Furthermore, it’s important to talk to your doctor before making any big changes to your diet, especially if you have a medical condition or take medication on a regular basis.
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Are there any negatives to following the Mediterranean diet?
Generally speaking, there are no negatives to following the Mediterranean diet as it is a very healthy way of eating. However, like with any diet, you may not do well on this type of eating plan.
It also may also be expensive to follow due to the need to buy fresh, organic, and local foods and because you need to eat seafood twice a week.
If you have food allergies or are picky with what you eat, this diet may also not be for you. For example, if you have food allergies or sensitivities you may need to avoid certain foods that are allowed on the diet.
Additionally, the diet may not be appropriate for you if you have certain medical conditions such as kidney disease or gout.
Finally, if you don’t like cooking or preparing meals, the Mediterranean diet may not be the best fit as it does require some meal planning and preparation.
As we always recommend, please talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy way of eating that has many benefits. Some of the benefits include improved heart health, weight loss, and better blood sugar control although there are others too.
The diet consists of mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean meats, fish, legumes, and dairy. You need to also drink plenty of water and can enjoy up to one glass of red wine per day.
There are some foods that you need to limit or avoid such as sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meats, refined grains and flour, anything with added sugars, red meat, saturated fats, and processed food.
If you have any more questions about the Mediterranean diet, please consult your doctor, nutritionist, or health care provider.