Healthy Living with the Mediterranean Diet

by Melissa Chichester

Many diet and lifestyle fads come and go, but some of them tend to stick around for a long time due to their sustainable practices. One of those diets is the Mediterranean diet. This diet is based on the traditional ways of eating in Italy, Greece, and throughout the Mediterranean Sea region. You may have seen that this way of eating is making a comeback this year and with good reason.

The Mediterranean diet is not a “diet” in the traditional sense. It is a way of life, just as nutritious eating should be. This lifestyle originally became popular when researchers discovered that people in the Mediterranean were healthier than people in the United States.

In 1948, the first study of the Mediterranean diet was conducted on the island of Crete. The Rockefeller Foundation was invited by the Greek government to investigate how the standard of living could be raised in post-war Crete. Studies on diet in the Mediterranean continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

It is important to note that the Mediterranean style of eating is not strict to a specific region due to variation between different countries. What really matters is that the broad reach of the Mediterranean diet is a nutritious way of eating. It can help you consume beneficial vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that contribute to your well-being.

Mediterranean diet foods to eat

This way of eating is not based on complex recipes or exotic foods. It is a simple way of eating that anyone can do! It is high in vegetables, fruit, and seafood. Red meat and poultry are consumed in very small amounts. Here is a brief list of some of the foods that you will find on the Mediterranean diet:

  • Vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts, carrots, romaine lettuce, beets, okra, green beans, zucchini, garlic, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, and cucumbers
  • Fruits: Citrus fruits, including lemons, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit; strawberries, pears, figs, melons, grapes, and peaches
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and macadamia nuts
  • Beans: Lentils, chickpeas, and white beans
  • Seafood: Cod, anchovies, salmon, sardines, tuna, shrimp, and oysters
  • Grains and bread: Pita bread, rice, egg pasta, phyllo, couscous, and barley
  • Meat and poultry: Chicken, beef, veal, and pork
  • Eggs: Duck, quail, and chicken
  • Greens: Beet greens, dandelion, arugula, and amaranth
  • Herbs and spices: Oregano, parsley, mint, basil, garlic, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice
  • Dairy: Ricotta, mozzarella, feta, sheep’s milk yogurt, and Greek yogurt
  • Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, tahini, avocados, and avocado oil

Basic guidelines of the Mediterranean diet

Meals based on the foods listed above adhere to the Mediterranean style of eating. Here are some principles that are typically followed in the region:

  • Eat a diet moderate in carbohydrates (about 40%)
  • Food is largely plant-based and vegetables are the main course
  • Food is minimally processed
  • Meat or poultry is a side dish and is not consumed daily
  • Local, seasonal foods are preferred
  • Olive oil is the main fat and replaces butter
  • Moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt are consumed daily
  • Fish is consumed several times per week when compared to poultry
  • Low to moderate consumption of eggs
  • Fresh fruit serves as dessert, usually served with honey
  • Red meat is consumed a few times per month
  • Water is the main beverage, followed by herbal teas
  • Coffee is consumed once or twice daily

What foods to avoid on the Mediterranean diet

Foods that should be avoided on the Mediterranean diet are not surprising. They are pretty typical to what physicians and researchers recommend today. Here’s what you should avoid:

  • Soft drinks and sweetened beverages
  • Vegetable oils made with corn or canola oil
  • Processed snack foods
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Processed salad dressing

A nutritious way of eating

Starting a new way of eating can be overwhelming. If you are interested in trying the Mediterranean diet, don’t feel like you have to do everything a specific way. Also, don’t be lured into processed foods with “Mediterranean” boldly printed on the packaging. You should consume the freshest foods that you possibly can. The Mediterranean diet is a highly nutritious way of eating that has many benefits.