Recently U.S News and World Report rated the Mediterranean diet as the Best Diet Overall in 2020. In fact Mediterranean diet has held the number 1 spot in the ranking for the last 3 consecutive years. It was also rated as the easiest diet to follow as well as the best plant based diet. I have summarized what mediterranean diet is, what are the benefits of mediterranean diet, whether mediterranean diet is right for you, and few starter menus to help you get started. Read on!
What is Mediterranean Diet?
Mediterranean diet is a largely plant based diet based on the traditional eating habits of countries around the Mediterranean sea including Spain, Italy and Greece. In this diet, you can eat large quantities of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and olive oil daily. Seafood should be eaten at least twice per week. Eat moderate amount of dairy, eggs and poultry. You may eat red meat sparingly, and drink small amount of red wine. Read the red wine recommended in the diet as a good alternative for hard liquor and not as a recommendation to start drinking if you don’t drink alcohol at all as all the health risks associated with alcohol consumption remains the same. The diet lays special emphasis on eating 7-10 total servings of vegetables and fruits per day.
Although herbs and spices used in Mediterranean cooking are not highlighted typically when talking about Mediterranean diet, it is important to point out that they not only add a ton of flavor but also add to the health benefits of this diet. Common herbs and spices used in this diet are thyme, oregano, basil, dill, marjoram, parsley, tarragon, sage, saffron, rosemary, paprika, lavender, fennel and sumac. The sumac spice comes from the dried berries of the sumac bush native to Middle East and not the poisonous weed possibly growing in your back yard. You may be surprised to learn that cumin, coriander, black pepper, cloves and turmeric are also commonly used in this diet but this makes sense as the cuisine varies among the various countries from which “Mediterranean” diet originates.
By adding herbs and spices for flavor, you have the benefit of reducing salt intake.
What are the health benefits of Mediterranean Diet?
Research has shown that the diet is good for
- Heart health: lowers risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, lowers blood pressures, lowers total and “bad” cholesterol
- Cancer prevention
- Supporting brain function
- Protection against Age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Supporting weight loss and management
- Protection against chronic diseases as it reduces inflammation
- Protection against type 2 diabetes
- Increasing life expectancy and improves quality of life
- Reducing risk of depression
- Improving fertility
Can Mediterranean Diet help? Is Mediterranean diet right for me?
If you are not asking this question, you should be. You should ask this question with any new diet or health plan you hear about, Best Ranked or not. Every individual is different. You have to make sure that any new change you plan to make in your diet or lifestyles serves only to benefit you and does not make your existing health condition or symptom worse. If you are not sure, talk to a qualified health care provider.
The Mediterranean diet is nutritionally balanced and rich in fiber, vitamins, good fats and antioxidants. The high fiber content in the fruit and vegetables as well as the high fat content in the diet keeps you full, reducing the chances of eating empty calorie snacks or big servings of other foods.
If you have challenges with digesting fats, you may have to work with a qualified health provider to improve digestion first as this diet has moderate to high amount of fats, albeit mostly good fats.
If you are intolerant of dairy foods, modify the diet to eliminate dairy and increase intake of calcium rich non-dairy foods.
If you do not eat meat or sea food, you can increase intake of legumes and beans in the diet but also make sure to eat more nuts and seeds to get the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids from the diet.
If you are allergic to nuts or intolerant, then eliminate nuts. Instead you can eat seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds.
If you are following the diet as a weight loss support, remember that this diet is meant to be combined with adequate physical activity. Also, the food choices within the dietary recommendations and portion sizes will affect individual results as the diet does not clearly specify serving sizes.
Having listed some challenges with the diet, I still want to state that this is one of my favorite diets to recommend as it renders well to being modified to each person’s unique needs.
Sample Mediterranean diet menu
|Oatmeal topped with nuts
|A cup of berries
|Greek salad with chickpeas, nuts or seed toppings, olive oil and vinegar dressing
|Baby carrots and hummus
|Chicken or bean soup with herbs,
cooked swiss chard greens
|Greek yogurt topped with berries
and small amount of honey
|Mid morning snack
|Endives topped with chickpea
|Kale salad and grilled salmon
|Apple slices dipped in almond or
sunflower seed butter
|Baked Chicken, warm faro salad,
|Scrambled eggs with parsley, oven roasted sweet potato side
|Mid morning snack
|Small bowl of olives
|Zucchini noodles, grilled sardines
|Chia seed pudding with almond or coconut milk
|Falafel, hummus, olives, cucumber salad and pita bread or gluten free bread if avoiding wheat, feta
If you are ready to try Mediterranean diet, get the free downloadable shopping list by clicking on the link below
The information and other content provided in this blog are for information purpose only, and not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider.
U.S. News staff “Best Diets: How we rated 35 eating plans”, U.S. News & World Report, Jan 2, 2020 https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall
Mediterranean diet 101 brochure.Oldways Preservation Trust. https://oldwayspt.org/traditional-diets/mediterranean-diet. Accessed Jan 11, 2020.
Mayo Clinic staff, June 21 2019.Mediterranean Diet: A heart healthy eating plan. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801
Lăcătușu, C. M., Grigorescu, E. D.,Floria, M., Onofriescu, A., & Mihai, B. M. (2019). The Mediterranean Diet:From an Environment-Driven Food Culture to an Emerging Medical Prescription. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(6), 942.doi:10.3390/ijerph16060942
Agnoli, C., Sieri, S., Ricceri, F.,Giraudo, M. T., Masala, G., Assedi, M., … Krogh, V. (2018). Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and long-term changes in weight and waist circumference in the EPIC-Italy cohort. Nutrition & diabetes, 8(1), 22.doi:10.1038/s41387-018-0023-3