The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets out there.
It’s based on the traditional foods that people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea ate about 50 years ago. Back then, in the mid-20th century, researchers noted that people in Spain, Greece and Italy lived longer and healthier lives than Americans. And they had lower levels of heart disease, the #1 killer.
What makes living in this part of the world so healthy? First, let’s examine their diet (the Mediterranean diet). Eating this type of diet produces some pretty impressive results and is linked with the following:
- Being less overweight and obese (it’s better than low-fat diets)
- Better blood sugar control (for diabetes and metabolic syndrome)
- Lower risk of heart disease and stroke (and blood markers like cholesterol and triglycerides)
- Reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
- Fewer cancers (breast & colorectal)
- Less premature death
Overall, it’s simply really good for you.
Recent research even links the Mediterranean diet to better gut microbes! This makes sense when you feed your friendly gut microbes their favorite foods, including fiber, fruit and vegetables.
Here’s another bonus: Many people who start eating a Mediterranean diet can stick with it long-term.
How’s that for a healthy, whole-foods, health-promoting, not-so-restrictive diet?
You’re probably wondering what to eat and drink on a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is chock full of healthy whole foods such as the following:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Fish and seafood
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Herbs and spices
These foods are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber. And they’re often eaten in social settings where the food (and the company) is enjoyed.
The go-to beverage for the Mediterranean diet is water. Coffee and tea are also regularly consumed (without the addition of lots of cream and/or sugar). And yes, red wine (about 1 glass per day) is very commonly enjoyed.
Some foods and drinks that are eaten in moderation include the items below:
- Cheese and yogurt
Red meat, unfermented dairy (milk, for example), butter and salt are rarely consumed, if at all.
So what do you have to give up on this diet?
It’s true that there are many foods and drinks that are not part of the Mediterranean diet. Not surprisingly, this includes many highly processed and unhealthy foods like the ones listed below:
- Processed meats
- Sauces and gravies
- Sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices
- Refined grains and oils (including hydrogenated oils)
- Too much salt
- Added sugars
And if alcohol is a problem, you can also ditch the wine.
The Mediterranean diet also incorporates a different lifestyle. Some things to ditch are being too sedentary, eating alone and being overly stressed.
The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy way of eating. It is a whole-foods diet focusing mainly on plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains). It also contains fish, olive oil and herbs and spices.
The Mediterranean diet is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber — all of which are health-boosting from your head to your heart as well as the rest of your body.
It’s important to remember that health involves more than just food.
The Mediterranean lifestyle also incorporates regular exercise, eating with people whom you care about and overall enjoyment of life, including a healthy, meaningful way to spend your days; living with happiness and optimism; and both a healthy spiritual and emotional life.
Do you think you could add or ditch certain foods to get closer to the Mediterranean diet? Do you have a favorite recipe that embodies this way of eating? I’d love to know! If so, please add your recipe to the comments below. As always, we’d love to hear from you.