The Mediterranean diet eating principles are generally well established. Foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and fatty fish are encouraged on the diet.
However, what to drink is a little vaguer. Water is always a great choice, but there are other options that are unclear.
This article will cover what you can and can’t drink on the Mediterranean diet, the reasons why and how much.
Drinks on the Mediterranean Diet
How often: commonly
The majority of your fluids consumed should be via plain water on the Mediterranean diet.
Water is the best choice since it doesn’t contain any calories and can help naturally reduce your caloric intake by acting as a suppressant.
One study found 50 overweight women that drink an extra 500ml of water 3 times a day before meals resulted in significant reductions in body weight and fat (3).
Brain function is also strongly dependent on how hydrated you are. Even mild dehydration (1-3% fluid loss) can cause large reductions in memory and brain performance.
Some flavored water will contain added sugar, sweeteners, or additives, hence why plain water is preferable. Be sure to check the labels before buying.
How often: allowed regularly
Tea is fine to drink on the Mediterranean diet. There are a variety of teas with a variety of purported benefits, usually due to their polyphenol content.
Although teas can be part of a healthy Mediterranean-style diet, it is likely that they aren’t a magic bullet. For example, many herb-containing supplements claim to kill pain and fight cancer.
These claims are usually outlandish and can be dangerous to follow
The good news is that they are a better alternative to coffee. This is because it typically contains less caffeine, but still contains an antioxidant called L-theanine, which can help stimulate the brain (6, 7).
Overall, tea doesn’t appear to show any problems except giving you the jitters if you drink too much caffeinated brew. Be sure not to add too much sugar, as this will add substantially more calories.
How often: moderately
Coffee is allowed on the Mediterranean diet but it has both its benefits and drawbacks.
However, excessive caffeine intake can cause jitteriness, heart palpitations, and anxiety (13). Therefore, it’s best to exercise moderation.
You can make your coffee more Mediterranean-friendly and healthier by doing the following:
- Reduce added sugar: 1 tsp is 16 calories, which quickly adds up. Sweeteners can be a good alternative to reduce calorie counts.
- Try decaf coffee: decaf can be useful when replacing caffeine to help improve your sleep
- Drink black coffee: reducing milk, sugar and cream from your coffee generally makes it healthier. A little milk is fine, but you should try and reduce your sugar especially.
4. Red Wine
How often: limited
Red wine is typically allowed on the Mediterranean diet as an occasional drink. However, there are a lot of issues with red wine and alcohol in general, particularly when drunk excessively. However, studies do find some benefits. despite some benefits.
The health benefits that are found in studies usually relate to its antioxidant profile, namely resveratrol. However, you would need to drink bottles of red wine to match the amount used in studies, which isn’t recommended.
There are also definite problems with drinking red wine such as alcohol dependence and weight gain, which many studies show increases a variety of health factors.
There is also a risk of liver cirrhosis if drunk too much. Studies have found that the risk of developing liver disease increases if you drink more than 30g of alcohol (roughly 2-3 glasses of red wine). People with advanced cirrhosis generally only survive 1-2 years (14).
Overall, an occasional glass should be fine, but you shouldn’t actively drink more just because it’s allowed on the Mediterraenean diet.
5. Fruit Juices
How often: somewhat limited
Fruit juice is not a bad choice since it contains lots of nutrients, vitamins and other beneficial compounds.
However, the problem is that they are very high in sugar and can contain similar amounts to that of soda. Juicing releases the sugars in fruit and removes the insoluble fibre.
Fibre protects us against the effects of fructose by slowing its absorption,
This means when you consume the sugar in whole foods like fruit, they fill you up more. This encourages weight loss, despite them containing natural sugars.
For example, one study found that small amounts of juice (less than 5 oz/150ml a day) may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Only higher intakes appeared bad for health (18).
Therefore, an occasional glass is fine, but too much will mean drinking too much sugar.
How often: moderately
Although smoothies are not typically found on a classic Mediterranean diet, there are a lot of benefits in drinking smoothies:
- They are an excellent way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet
- With the right ingredients, they can also be a very good source of fiber
- You can customize them to your taste and nutritional requirements.
However, sugar is often added to store-bought smoothies which reduces their health benefits.
The difference between a healthy and unhealthy smoothie is mainly dependent on the quality and quantity of the ingredients. For example, a 200-300 calorie smoothie with a good amount of protein would be ideal as a snack between meals.
However, if you add more ingredients, you could easily push the smoothie to a 600-800 calorie meal, making it more suitable as a meal replacement. In this case, drinking a smoothie like this as a snack is likely to cause weight loss if your usual meals are eaten.
Generally homemade smoothies will be better, as you can control the sugar and calorie contents. Store-bought smoothies are likely to contain more added sugar, so be sure to check the labels.
7. Milk and Dairy
How often: moderately
Dairy is eaten moderately on the Mediterranean diet and this applies for drinks too. This includes dairy alternatives such as soy or almond milk.
Most choices of milk and yogurt are good sources of vitamins and minerals as well as protein. They are the best source of calcium, an important mineral for bone health (19).
However, dairy is also typically higher in saturated fat, hence why you shouldn’t consume too much dairy in general. Dairy products are also a problem for people who are lactose intolerant.
Can You Drink Olive Oil?
Olive oil is generally allowed on the Mediterranean diet, but usually as a cooking oil. It generally isn’t drunk, but since it is quite calorific, some people may drink it if they need to gain weight, such as when building muscle.
Can You Drink Beer on the Mediterranean Diet?
As with all alcohol, you should moderate your intake.
Beer does also contain a lot of calories and it is usually a lot easier to consume liquid calories. However, an occasional drink should be fine.
Can You Drink Diet Soda on the Mediterranean Diet?
Diet soda is generally discouraged on the Mediterranean diet.
Although diet soda usually has little to no calories, they do contain sweeteners, colors, flavors, and other food additives. Evidence on their benefits is mixed and there are plenty of studies that show an association between drinking more diet soda and health risks such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
There are plenty of alternatives that would make for a more nutritious, balanced diet plan.
To Sum Up
Your go-to drink on the Mediterranean diet should be water. It should make up the majority of the fluids you drink.
However, there are other alternatives that are fine to drink in certain amounts. Tea is a great choice and coffee is slightly less so. Fruit juices, dairy, and smoothies can be part of a healthy diet, but watch out for excess sugar and fat.
Red wine is traditionally allowed on the Mediterranean diet, but you shouldn’t actively drink more red wine since it’s alcohol.