What is the Mediterranean Diet?

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The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating habits of countries like Italy and Greece.

Other countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea have different versions of the diet. These include Spain, France, Morocco, Malta, Turkey and Israel. Variations occur depending on local ingredients.

The Mediterranean Diet isn’t exclusively a ‘diet’. It refers to the common dietary practices of the people in the Mediterranean region.

Components of a Mediterranean Diet

Although the diet various slightly depending on the region, certain similarities remain throughout:

  • High mono-unsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio. This can be the result of using olive oil as a main cooking ingredient
  • High fruit and vegetable intake
  • High whole grain intake
  • Increased consumption of fish
  • Moderate consumption of dairy products
  • Moderate red wine intake (optional)
  • Limited intake of red meat
  • Regular physical activity
  • Sharing meals with other people and enjoying life.

It is the overall approach and combination of foods that makes the diet healthy, rather than individual ‘superfoods’.

Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

Numerous studies show a traditional Mediterranean diet may benefit the following conditions:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Raised cholesterol
  • Weight loss
  • Various types of cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The Mediterranean diet is also one of the easiest diets to stick to long-term. It’s delicious flavours and low cost make it a practical solution for most people.

Foods You Should Avoid

The Mediterranean diet doesn’t cut all food groups — we all need a treat occasionally. Saying that, you should avoid these unhealthy foods as much as possible.

  • Added sugar: Sweets, table sugar, sugary drinks and many others
  • Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
  • Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods.
  • Refined Oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others.
  • Highly processed foods & meats: Everything labelled “low-fat” or “diet”.

How to Approach the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean pyramid below gives a sense of the proportions and frequency of food group servings that make up the diet.

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.

The pyramid intentionally does not specify recommended weights of foods or calories. It is only meant to provide an overall look at healthy food choices and the relative proportions.

It does this because good health has been attributed to variation within the overall dietary pattern.

The more variety you get within the specified relative allowances per category – the better.

What You Should Do Next

1. If you’d like to try the Mediterranean diet plan, get a free 7 day Mediterranean Diet plan (including 20 recipes, a corresponding meal plan and shopping list.

2. If you are serious about starting a Mediterranean diet, check out ‘Med in 28’ plan, which helps build healthy Mediterranean eating habits in 28 days.

3. If you’re looking to start cooking Mediterranean recipes—or need some inspiration—then like our Facebook page.