A total diet and lifestyle approach continues to be one of the best prescriptions for a long, healthy life.
Delicious food that’s stood the test of time and helps keep you healthy for years to come. That’s at the heart of the traditional Mediterranean diet.
There’s no single Mediterranean diet plan, but in general, you’d be eating lots of fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, small amounts of meat and dairy, and red wine.
This lifestyle also encourages daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and enjoying it all.
Does It Work?
This diet scores big for heart health. Studies suggest it can make you less likely to get heart disease, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and may also help you avoid certain cancers and chronic diseases.
For weight loss, you’ll have better results if you stick with it more than six months, get regular exercise, and cut back on how much you eat. Studies show it may be better for weight loss than a low-fat diet.
What You Can Eat and What You Can’t
You’ll eat mostly plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables, potatoes, whole-grain bread, beans, nuts, and seeds.
You can have yogurt, cheese, poultry, and eggs in small portions. You should eat fish and seafood at least twice a week. “Good” fats get a stamp of approval: Think olives, extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, and avocados instead of butter or margarine. You’ll use olive oil a lot while cooking. Reach for herbs and spices to add flavor.
Red wine gets a thumbs-up, in moderation (one glass for women, one to two for men). But water is your go-to drink.
Dessert is usually fruit. Sweets and red meats are OK occasionally.
Level of Effort: Low to Medium
It’s a tasty and good for you, though you may have a learning curve at first.
Limitations: Few. The Mediterranean diet allows plenty of variety and experimentation.
Cooking and shopping: Simplify by planning your meals in advance; keeping pantry staples like olive oil, canned tomatoes, whole grains, pasta, and tuna on hand; and shopping for fresh produce and seafood a few times a week. You can easily grill or broil many Mediterranean diet foods.
Snacks can be quick and easy, too: Grab a clementine or a handful of nuts, or dip whole wheat pita chips into hummus.
Packaged foods or meals?
None. The diet emphasizes fresh foods.
Exercise: Being active every day is part of the lifestyle.
Is It Good for Health Conditions?
Besides helping your heart and improving your cholesterol, the diet may help lower your odds of getting Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression.
Of course, many other things also affect your health, including your genes, how active you are, and whether you smoke. There’s more to it than what you eat.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
Vegetarians and vegans: Sticking with fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds is a snap for vegetarians. If you’re vegan, you’d need to skip the dairy products.
Low-sodium diet: You’ll rely on herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt, which helps if you’re looking for a low-sodium diet.
Low-fat diet: The Mediterranean diet doesn’t qualify as a low-fat diet. But it is low insaturated fat and is well within the American Heart Association’s guidelines.
Gluten-free? If you’re avoiding gluten, you can choose grains without gluten.
What Else You Should Know
If you’re looking for a long-term lifestyle change, this can be a fun and realistic way to do it. You can be creative, approach your food in a new way, and enjoy the foods you like in moderation.