The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is not a specific diet plan or program, but rather a collection of eating habits traditionally followed by people of the Mediterranean region, including Greece, Crete, southern France, and parts of Italy.
Scientific research indicates that the Mediterranean diet can improve health and longevity.
- One example of this research is the now-famous Lyon Diet Heart Study, which began in 1988 to study whether a Mediterranean diet could reduce the incidence of second heart attacks or heart-related deaths among a group of 605 men and women who had survived a first heart attack. Just two and a half years into the trial, the study was stopped because the benefits of the Mediterranean diet were so compelling.
- Another example, an NIH-AARP study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007, also provided strong evidence for the beneficial effects of this diet on Americans, showing that a higher conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern reduced risk of death from all causes, including deaths due to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
While there is no universal definition of the Mediterranean Diet, many components have been consistently identified, including an abundance of natural, whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, along with olive oil, fish, nuts, and a moderate amount of wine.
The Mediterranean diet does not regard all fats as bad. In fact, the diet does not attempt to limit total fat consumption, but rather to make wise choices about the type of fat consumed. The Mediterranean diet is naturally low in saturated fat, such as that found in meat and butter. However it views two types of fat as healthy and places no restrictions on their consumption.
- Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish (such as salmon, trout, sardines, and tuna) and some plant sources (such as walnuts and other tree nuts, flaxseed, and various vegetables).
- Monounsaturated fat, which is abundant in olive oil, nuts, and avocado.
Because the Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating whole, natural foods, it is also extremely low in trans-fatty acids.
Food Included in the Mediterranean Diet
- An abundance of natural, whole, fresh plant foods, including fruits and vegetables (5-13 daily)
- Whole grain, high-fiber breads, cereals, and rice
- Minimal saturated fat from limited amounts of chicken and lean cuts of grass-fed red meat
- Fatty fish, especially salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna
- Dairy products, especially yogurt, Parmesan, and feta cheeses (but butter and other cheeses in moderation)
- Olive oil, flaxseed, and avocados
- High quality vinegars, such as balsamic
- Frequent legumes, especially soybeans, lentils, white beans, black beans, chick peas
- Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and brazil nuts
- Fresh and dried herbs
Food Limited in the Mediterranean Diet
- Foods high in refined sugar
- Trans-fatty acids "partially hydrogenated" oils
- Processed foods and refined products
- Omega 6 fatty acid oils, such as corn oil, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils (some of these are necessary to get essential fatty acids)