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What is the Mediterranean diet?

As far back as the 1960s, researchers began to notice that the people in countries like Greece and Italy demonstrated remarkably good health. This led researchers to examine the diet of people who lived along the Mediterranean coast. They discovered that the diet of these people was directly connected to their good health and began to formulate what now’s called the Mediterranean diet. 

The Mediterranean diet is linked to better heart health and better health in general. What researchers have come to understand is that a diet similar to that of the people of the Mediterranean coast is a great way to be healthy and fit. 

Since these discoveries, the Mediterranean diet has garnered many followers. In addition to the scientific evidence, the anecdotal evidence of millions of people who have adopted the Mediterranean diet reveals that it is a healthy way to live. Combined with exercise and a healthy lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet has been proven to be effective. 

So what exactly is the Mediterranean diet? What are the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? And what do we need to eat to adhere to the Mediterranean diet? This guide will give you the information you need to try the Mediterranean diet.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a diet that was inspired by the common eating habits of the people of Spain, Greece, and Italy. It was discovered in the 1960s. The Mediterranean diet consists of high amounts of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables, and fish. 

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a general reduction in what doctors refer to as all-cause mortality or death from any cause. Specifically, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to help reduce heart disease and improved cardiovascular health. 

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The discovery of the Mediterranean diet initially centered on its relation to heart health. As researchers focused their attention on the Mediterranean diet, they discovered that it provides numerous health benefits. The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet include:  

Can reduce your risk of heart disease

A meta-analysis has shown that the Mediterranean diet is good for your heart. People who eat a diet that conforms to the Mediterranean diet saw a 30 percent decrease in heart disease and cardiovascular problems. 

Can reduce your risk of stroke

Since it was already known that the Mediterranean diet was good for cardiovascular health, it made sense to look into the benefits for potential strokes. Researchers found that the Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce your risk of stroke. This is particularly true of women. 

A study in the United Kingdom that examined groups who followed a conventional diet compared with another group who adhered to the Mediterranean diet found that women especially benefited from this diet. A strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of strokes in women by as much as 20 percent. 

Can prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease

The health of the brain depends on a rich blood supply. The brain, as it turns out, needs to be fed quite literally. To supply the brain with nutrients and oxygen it needs to remain healthy, we need to eat the correct foods, and the Mediterranean diet appears to consist of a good supply of those foods. 

Recent studies show that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the mental and cognitive decline that comes with aging. This benefit even extends to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2016 study demonstrated that adherence to the Mediterranean diet substantially reduced symptoms of cognitive decline in older adults. This same study showed that the Mediterranean diet can also slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Helps with weight loss

The Mediterranean diet can help you lose weight safely and sustainably. Keep in mind that the Mediterranean diet is something that produces results over the long-term. It is not a way to lose weight quickly. 

The data from multiple studies show that a lifestyle that centers on the Mediterranean diet can lead to substantial weight loss. And the Mediterranean diet is better for weight loss than other comparable diets. What is more, people who lose weight while adhering to the Mediterranean diet tend to keep the weight off more easily than people who do other types of diets. 

The results show that the Mediterranean diet works well to help you lose weight. Since the Mediterranean diet is based on a lifestyle, adopting this way of living tends to help people stay fit and healthy well after they shed weight. 

Can help manage type 2 diabetes

The Mediterranean diet has shown promise for managing and even preventing type 2 diabetes. One study tracked people with type 2 diabetes who took to the Mediterranean diet over four years. The results of this study showed that people who adhered to the Mediterranean diet demonstrated fewer symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Other people in the study showed a 52 percent decrease in signs of the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Further studies have shown that adherence to the Mediterranean diet can control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It also seems to lead to a low-glycemic index and high protein levels which are conducive to controlling type 2 diabetes. 

Can benefit people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means it is a condition in which the body mistakenly attacks the joints. This causes painful swelling around the joints and can be debilitating. Doctors have long recommended taking omega-3 fatty acids to treat the cause and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. 

Researchers now suggest that a diet rich in the types of foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids is even more helpful in fighting the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by foods like fish and olive oil that contain high quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. Again, a lifestyle that includes the Mediterranean diet shows promise for improving health. 

May protect against cancer

The Mediterranean diet may help prevent certain types of cancer. A series of studies published by the journal Nutrients found that the Mediterranean diet may help prevent breast and colorectal cancer. 

One sustained study discovered that the Mediterranean diet may provide a 62 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet can be enhanced simply by supplementing with olive oil. 

It May help fight depression

Early observations that led to the development of the Mediterranean diet already saw a correlation between this diet and the low incidence of depression. Now, researchers have found that the lack of processed meats, low sugar, and anti-inflammatory nature of the Mediterranean diet significantly reduces your risk of depression. 

The overall health benefits and the ability to help people lose weight contribute to the boost to mental health that can come with the Mediterranean diet. 

What should you eat on the Mediterranean diet?

Perhaps the only difficulty with the Mediterranean diet is determining what exactly you should eat. The nature of the true Mediterranean diet is quite varied. But some key components are easy to pin down. Things to eat on the Mediterranean diet involve some simple staples.  

Include fish or seafood in your meals at least twice a week. Other things include:

  • Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, etc.
  • Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.
  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc.
  • Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread, and pasta.
  • Fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.
  • Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.
  • Eggs: Chicken, quail, and duck eggs.
  • Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc.
  • Herbs and spices: Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
  • Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, and avocado oil.

Make sure to rely primarily on whole foods. Also, consider that the Mediterranean diet is meant to be shared. It is a great reason to share food with family and friends. 

Does the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight?

Again, the Mediterranean diet is based on a healthy eating pattern that was already in place in certain parts of the world. The traditional diets of Spain, France, Italy, and Greece tend not to lead to forms of weight gain and obesity. 

A scientific review of five separate studies found that reliance on the Mediterranean diet can help you shed more than 20 pounds over the year. Perhaps more significant is that losing weight with the Mediterranean diet is just the beginning of the benefits. The Mediterranean diet tends to help people keep the weight off once they lose it. 

What is more, the nature of the Mediterranean diet naturally reduces sugar intake and the consumption of processed foods. By its very nature, the Mediterranean diet helps people lose weight and live a lifestyle that keeps the weight off. 

Mediterranean diet risks 


There are very few risks to eating a Mediterranean diet since it encompasses eating healthy foods in moderation. One of the few risks that some face is that they forget that exercise and the social aspects are part of what keeps the people of the Mediterranean so healthy. 

Many proponents of the Mediterranean diet suggest that the diet itself be accompanied by a lifestyle akin to the people of the Mediterranean area. Shared meals and a sense of family and community are built right into the lifestyle that accompanies the Mediterranean diet. This is all good for your mental health as well as your physical health. 

Mediterranean diet FAQs

What is the Mediterranean diet? 

The Mediterranean diet is a diet that was inspired by the common eating habits of the people of Spain, Greece, and Italy. It was discovered in the 1960s. The Mediterranean diet consists of high amounts of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables, and fish. 

What are the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? 

The Mediterranean diet can help you lose weight and keep it off. It helps fight heart disease, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and even some types of cancer. The Mediterranean has been shown to help control type 2 diabetes. It also shows promise for controlling and preventing cognitive decline. 

What should I eat on the Mediterranean diet?

Make sure you include fish or seafood at least twice a week. The Mediterranean diet is heavy on olive oil. Eat whole grains and other whole foods. And make sure you include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. 


Are there any risks to the Mediterranean diet?

There are no known risks to the Mediterranean diet. It is healthy. When combined with exercise and other features of a healthy lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet is conducive to all-around good health. 

Conclusion

The Mediterranean diet was discovered when researchers began to notice that the people who lived in countries like Spain, France, Italy, and Greece appeared to have low incidences of heart disease and other illnesses. When carefully studied, what they found was that the diet of people who lived near the Mediterranean region tended to be healthier. 

A diet based on fish, olive oil, and whole foods tends to lead to a healthier life than other ways of eating. We now know that the Mediterranean diet can be adopted almost anywhere to help people lose weight, reduce their risk of heart disease, and live healthier lives. 

Perhaps one of the greatest things about the Mediterranean diet is that it is more than a diet. The Mediterranean diet can become something of a lifestyle. Basing your eating habits on the Mediterranean diet combined with exercise and other healthy lifestyle patterns is just a healthier way to live. 

The Mediterranean diet is good for your heart, your mind, and your general well-being. It is fairly easy to adopt the Mediterranean diet. With a little planning, you can build a lifestyle around the Mediterranean diet. 

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