The Mediterranean diet is not a diet, it’s an eating style. It consists of plant-based foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. The traditional Mediterranean diet also includes moderate amounts of fish. Foods that are typically avoided are red meat, dairy products other than cheese or yogurt in limited quantities as well as sweets and processed food. Vegetables should be cooked with extra virgin olive oil for its beneficial properties to the cardiovascular system. Olive oil can replace butter or margarine on breads and crackers but never on hot dishes like pasta sauces because heat destroys its healthy qualities (Hertzler).
The health benefits of this type of eating include reduction in hypertension; lower rates of obesity; reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and certain cancers. There is evidence of this diet being beneficial to the liver, brain function, skin conditions and alleviating depression (Hertzler).
What does the Mediterranean Diet consist of?
The choice of foods in a Mediterranean style diet are based on several factors including culture around food, social interaction with family or friends, history of the food preparation and use of ingredients that have been used for centuries.
The traditional foods include fruits such as grapes, olives, apricots and figs; vegetables like artichokes, eggplant, mushrooms zucchini squash carrots cauliflower peas beans spinach tomatoes cabbage lettuce onions garlic lemons cucumbers potatoes specialty meats olives nuts seeds legumes wine/herbs and spices.
The Mediterranean diet also includes daily physical activity, moderation in alcohol consumption, enjoying life and family traditions (Hertzler).
References: Hertzler SR. Eating for Better Health: Dietary Guidelines from the Heartland. J Nurse Pract. 2012;8(11):637-41. Web Link Accessed November 21, 2015.