What Is The Mediterranean Diet?

In this article, you’ll get answers to questions like: What is the Mediterranean Diet? What does a Mediterranean Diet Consist of? You’ll also learn how you can incorporate its principles into your lifestyle.

Where Did The Mediterranean Diet Originate?

The Mediterranean diet as we know it today has ancient origins that arose from the influence of several cultures.

Romans had food traditions inspired by the Greeks that were often enjoyed by the richer classes. Later on, foods imported from the cultures of Germanic people, Muslims, and people from the Americas found their way to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

Jumping to modern times, we can thank the public health scientist Dr. Ancel Keys for bringing the Mediterranean diet plan to the mainstream.

He was the director of the famous (and at times controversial) Seven Countries Study, which was a multi-country study that examined how coronary heart disease was related to diet, culture, lifestyle, and other risk factors.

From the study, he and researchers found that Greece and Japan had the lowest incidence of coronary heart disease and mortality out of the studied populations. People in these countries stood out for having lower saturated fat intake and high intakes of plant foods and fish. Other countries tended to have a greater intake of sugar and animal products.

In 1975, Ancel Keys and his wife Margaret Keys published a book called How to Eat Well and Stay Well, which detailed the components of the Mediterranean diet weight loss plan.

What Can You Eat On The Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet focuses on foods that are primarily plant-based, local and seasonal, and with minimal processing. The following Mediterranean Diet food list gives you a snapshot of all the things you can consume while losing weight on this plan.


Mediterranean Diet Foods Examples
 Fresh Fruits and Vegetables  All fruits and vegetables are allowed on a Mediterranean diet
 Beans and Lentils  Chickpeas, beans of all color, lentils, yellow split peas
 Fish and Seafood  Choose fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna and other seafood like shrimp, crab,   oysters, octopus
 Nuts and seeds  All raw or plain roasted nuts and seeds including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
 Poultry  Chicken, turkey, duck, Cornish hens
 Eggs  Low to moderate egg consumption is allowed
 Dairy  Greek yogurt, feta cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, fresh cheeses
 Whole grains  Brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, whole-grain, bread, pasta
 Healthy fats  Extra-virgin olive oil, olives, avocados
 Wine (optional)  Moderate amounts of red wine (1-2 glasses per day)


Avoid processed foods to lose weight.

What Should You Limit On The Mediterranean Diet?

When following a Mediterranean diet, many of the foods to avoid are either highly processed, high in saturated fats, or have poor nutrient content:


Non-Mediterranean Diet Foods Examples
 Added Sugars  Sweetened yogurts, pastries, desserts, sodas,   sweetened beverages, syrups, and sugars
 Refined Grains  White bread, crackers, chips, refined cereals
 Highly-Processed   Foods  Fast foods, frozen meals, packaged snacks,   junk foods
 Red and   Processed Meats  Beef, pork, bacon, deli meats, processed   sausages
 Trans Fats and   Refined Oils  Margarine, butter, canola oil, grapeseed oil,   soybean oil, fried foods
 Alcohol  Wine is permitted in moderate amounts, limit   overall alcohol intake


What Are The Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet?

The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been well-studied since the Seven Countries Study. Eating a clean diet like this one can help improve energy levels while helping you lose weight. The Mediterranean diet can also help improve overall health and protect against disease.

Promotes & Improves Heart Health

Numerous studies find that people following the Mediterranean diet have improvements in cholesterol profile, blood pressure, body weight, and waist circumference.

Along with these improvements, following a Mediterranean diet can reduce the incidence of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and death from heart disease.

Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Following a Mediterranean diet can be beneficial for preventing type-2 diabetes. As a diet featuring a lot of fruits, veggies and healthy fats, the Mediterranean diet can help reduce inflammation and decrease insulin resistance that increases the risk for diabetes.

In fact, a Mediterranean diet may decrease the risk of developing diabetes by 20% compared to standard diets. Certain populations, like older adults at risk for cardiovascular disease, may see an even bigger benefit from following a Mediterranean diet.

Protects Brain Function

The major components of a Mediterranean diet including omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols from fruits and vegetables, and probiotics may protect brain function by reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Though more studies need to be done, it’s believed that the anti-inflammatory benefits of the Mediterranean diet may reduce brain inflammation and protect cognitive function.

Improves Blood Sugar Regulation

Recent studies consistently show that the Mediterranean diet helped people reduce their HgbA1c levels after a 6-month dietary intervention.

Adults with type-2 diabetes also have a significant decrease in blood glucose and baseline insulin levels after following the diet. These results are consistent with the Mediterranean diet’s ability to reduce insulin resistance.

Healthy food preparation takes time.

What Are The Cons Of The Mediterranean Diet?

It’s obvious that the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, but there are some risks and drawbacks.

Could Be Expensive

Adding certain foods like fish, nuts, and seeds to your diet may add costs to your grocery bills.

Requires Preparation Time

Eliminating convenient processed foods from your diet means more time spent on cooking.

Careful Nutrient Planning

Because the Mediterranean diet limits red meat and has low-to-moderate dairy, you can fall short on iron and calcium if meals aren’t planned properly.

Fat Temptations

The Mediterranean diet has no calorie limits, so it is possible to potentially gain weight if eating too many healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and olive oil

Tips For Making The Switch

For some, following a Mediterranean diet may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be and you can lose weight faster than you think.

There is a good chance that many of the foods that are featured on a Mediterranean diet are foods that you already eat. You can balance your cultural foods and tastes to match the recommendations for a Mediterranean Diet.

Start off slowly with the following simple choices.


Tips For an Easy Start
 Ramp up your vegetable intake by at least 1 serving per meal.
 Choose whole grains instead of refined grains.
 Vary your proteins by choosing more beans, fish, and poultry.
 Start adding nuts and seeds to your diet.
 Switch out sweets for fresh fruit.
 Start cooking with olive oil.
 Drink more water and reduce soda and juice intake.

Meal Planning

It’s general wisdom that vegetables come first and should be heavily featured on your plate, followed by a moderately portioned protein.

Have trouble thinking about what to prepare? Look at what vegetables and foods are seasonal and local to your area.

Planning your meals so that you don’t have to cook every day is also a game-changer in successfully following any new diet.

If you want to get started with a healthy meal plan that’s right for you, take the Fit Mate Fitness Assessment Quiz today! Based on your results, you can receive a custom meal plan that suits your individual needs.

In addition to great meal plans, Fit Mate Coach offers 24/7 support from trained coaches who can help you learn how to lose weight effectively with advice on nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle habits.

FAQ

Why is the Mediterranean Diet So Healthy?

The Mediterranean diet is healthy because it is a diet based on high fruit and vegetable intake, moderate to low meat intake, healthy fats, and low processed foods. Together these dietary components can provide balanced nutrition and reduce disease risk.

What Foods Are Not Allowed On the Mediterranean Diet?

Foods that should be limited or avoided on the Mediterranean diet include foods made with added sugars. You should refined grains, processed meats, red meat, highly processed foods, trans fats and refined oil, and most alcoholic beverages.

How Do You Lose Weight on a Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet plan does not inherently have any calorie restrictions, but you can choose a healthy calorie goal to promote weight loss (usually subtracting 500 calories/day from your usual intake).  Support your weight loss with other healthy lifestyle choices like exercise, stress management, and good sleep habits.

How Do You Start the Mediterranean Diet?

Start making simple swaps with your meals at home – choose lean or plant-based proteins with your meals, include vegetables as a focal point on your plate, and do a clean-out of your pantries and fridge to reduce the amount of highly processed foods at home. Apps like Fitmate Coach are a great support in making meal planning easy.  

Take the Fitmate quiz to find out how a weight loss coach can help you follow the diet and lose weight.

The Mediterranean diet is regarded as one of the healthiest diet patterns by experts around the world. As a diet heavy on plant and minimally processed foods, there are many reasons why you should consider a Mediterranean-style eating pattern.