The Mediterranean Diet, revered globally for its health benefits and rich flavors, emphasizes a balanced and beneficial mix of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Although it doesn’t prescribe specific percentages for each macronutrient, it does have general guidelines on the types of foods and how often they should be eaten, which then gives basic percentages you can follow.
This article offers an in-depth exploration of the role and proportion of these macronutrients in the Mediterranean Diet and the type of foods to eat within each.
Overview of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet pyramid below gives a good visual indication of what foods are eaten more or less commonly.
At the bottom are common staple foods that are to be consumed in large amounts and more frequently. Portion sizes and frequency decline as you go up the pyramid.
Foods eaten daily include:
- Whole grains (carbs)
- Beans (carbs)
- Nuts (fats & protein)
- Fruits (carbs)
- Vegetables (carbs)
Foods eaten most days:
- Olive oil (fats)
Foods eaten a few times a week:
Foods eaten less often:
- Red meat
Carbohydrates (Approximately 40-50%)
Carbohydrates are integral to the Mediterranean diet, particularly as our body’s primary energy source. It usually derives about 40-50% of its daily caloric intake from carbohydrates. This might seem high compared to ‘fad’ diets and your typical Western diets. However, it focuses on eating high-quality, complex carbohydrates rather than carbs from processed grains and sugars. These include:
- Whole grains: these include foods like like barley, oats, and brown rice, which make up a significant portion of the carbohydrate intake. These foods are rich in dietary fiber, providing steady energy, maintaining blood sugar levels, and promoting satiety.
- Fruits, and vegetables: these are another excellent carbohydrate source contributes to fiber intake and offers an array of vitamins and minerals.
- Beans and Legumes: these includelentils and chickpeas and are also pivotal in the Mediterranean diet. They offer not only carbohydrates but also proteins and fiber, enhancing their nutritional value.
Proteins (Approximately 15-20%)
The Mediterranean diet adopts a unique approach to protein intake, emphasizing plant-based proteins over animal-derived ones. About 15-20% of daily caloric intake in this diet comes from proteins.
However, the Mediterranean diet is not strictly vegetarian; it does incorporate moderate amounts of fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
- Fish: particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, is a dietary staple. These fishes are rich in high-quality protein and also supply essential omega-3 fatty acids, contributing to heart health. White fish such as cod are also great quality proteins – they are often higher in protein that fatty fish, but don’t have as many omega-3 fats, which many of us don’t get enough of.
- Legumes, nuts, and seeds: Consuming these plant-based proteins reduces saturated fat intake, and these foods also deliver additional nutritional benefits such as fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
- Poultry: chicken and turkey for example, are great lean sources of protein.
- Eggs: eggs are consumed in moderation,
- Red meat: this is typically limited, contributing to the diet’s low saturated fat content.
Fats (Approximately 35-40%)
The Mediterranean diet embraces fat as a crucial part of the diet rather than shunning them.
Approximately 35-40% of the daily caloric intake comes from fats, primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart-friendly.
Omega-3 fats from fatty fish are also important. They help protect against inflammation and boost brain health, amongst many other benefits.
- Olive oil: this athis is a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet used generously in cooking and salad dressings. It provides monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid, which has been linked to reduced inflammation and heart disease risk.
- Nuts and seeds: these frequently consumed in the Mediterranean diet, offering a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Fatty fish and seafood: these supply omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat known for its heart health and brain benefits.
- Dairy: The diet’s inclusion of moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt also contributes some saturated fat. However, these foods provide other beneficial nutrients like calcium and protein, and the diet’s overall balance ensures the saturated fat intake remains within healthy limits.
To Sum Up
Macros aren’t used within a traditional Mediterranean diet. However, you can get an idea of the macros involved due to the type and amounts of foods given within the Mediterranean diet pyramid.
It is higher in carbs and fats, but also includes good amounts of protein. However, the most important part of the diet is choosing the healthier types of these macros.
Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes are healthy carbs, olive oil, fatty fish, nuts and seeds are great fat sources and lean protein, fish and legumes are excellent protein sources.
Stick to these type of foods to get the best
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