The diet is endorsed by the American Heart Association for its cardiovascular benefits. According to one study, the diet has been shown to reduce the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm labor and stillbirth when followed during pregnancy.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and savory herbs and spices. fish and seafood at least twice a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, according to US News and World Report.
“Any plan that removes an entire food group or a fruit or dairy product for non-medical reasons is a red flag and that’s why the Mediterranean diet is always such a big winner,” Gretel Schueller, editor-in-chief of US News and World Report, told ABC News. “The Mediterranean diet is healthy, sustainable, a tasty way to eat, and adaptable.”
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is not a way of eating but a broad term used to describe eating habits popularized in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, Greece, Morocco, Spain, and Lebanon.
The way of eating focuses on the quality of the food eaten rather than a single nutrient or food group, according to US News and World Report.
There are no specific serving size recommendations or calculations with the diet, meaning the amount of food a person eats with the diet depends on their own needs.
Nutrition experts say there is no one diet that will work for everyone. Some diets may be more beneficial depending on your situation, and some may be harmful depending on your condition. Anyone considering changing their diet should consult their doctor.
What types of foods are eaten in the Mediterranean diet?
Overall, the diet is mostly plant-based and focuses on healthy fats.
All types of vegetables and fruits are encouraged in the diet, as are non-meat protein sources like beans and other legumes.
Fish is encouraged twice a week and other animal proteins like poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt are encouraged in smaller portions, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
The main source of hydration should be water.
Light to moderate wine consumption, often with meals, is typical of the Mediterranean diet but is considered optional. In this context, moderation in wine consumption is defined as one to two glasses a day for men and one glass a day for women.
Are certain foods prohibited?
No, the diet does not totally eliminate any food or food group.
Certain foods are however encouraged sparingly in the diet, desserts, butter, heavily processed foods like frozen meals and candy, and refined grains and oils.
US News and World Report describes the diet as leaving “little room for the saturated fats, added sugars and sodium that flood the standard American diet.”
What are the health benefits?
According to US News and World Report, “people who follow a Mediterranean diet have a longer life expectancy, report a better quality of life, and are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”
The American Heart Association says the Mediterranean diet can “play an important role” in preventing heart disease and stroke and reducing risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Consuming virgin olive oil, in particular, can help the body “remove excess cholesterol from the arteries and keep blood vessels open,” according to the AHA.
Is the diet adaptable and economical?
In US News and World Report’s 2023 Best Diets ranking, the Mediterranean diet was not only the best overall diet, but also ranked among the best family diets and the easiest diets to follow.
Schueller said the foods promoted in the Mediterranean mode of consumption are not only economical and easily accessible, but also adaptable.
“Olive oil is a core part of the Mediterranean diet as the main source of healthy fats, but you can substitute it with a similar oil like grapeseed oil or sesame oil or a other fun, heart-healthy saturated fat like nuts or avocado,” she said. “And you can take those principles and adapt them to other cuisines by adding vegetables and whole grains from that country or region, reducing red meat [intake] and eat more effective plant proteins.”
She continued: “For example, if you prefer Asian cuisine, you can apply the principles of the Mediterranean diet, which may mean eating more brown or black rice instead of white rice, and seafood or tofu instead of white rice. instead of meat.”
What is an example recipe?
Maya Feller, dietician and nutritionist, shared this vegetable tagine recipe, which follows the principles of the Mediterranean diet.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of cumin
2 teaspoons of turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 minced garlic clove
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1/2 eggplant, coarsely chopped
1 zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 potato, coarsely chopped
1 can 15 oz low sodium chickpeas
2 pinches of saffron
1 cinnamon stick
Fresh mint and parsley, for garnish
Serve with couscous or galette of your choice
1. Put the olive oil, cumin, turmeric and black pepper in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and cook for 3-5 min. Add onion and garlic and cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.
2. Add carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, potato and 3 cups of water or low-sodium vegetable broth, reduce lid to heat and cook for 20 minutes.
3. Add chickpeas, saffron, cinnamon stick and 15 oz water and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook couscous according to package directions.
5. Ladle the vegetables in a shallow bowl over the couscous and garnish with fresh mint and parsley.