The Mediterranean Diet

Vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, and olive oil – All these nutrition-rich foods make a wholesome Mediterranean diet. Loaded with a variety of nutritious goodies, this diet is, undoubtedly, one of the favorites amongst those who are health conscious. The Mediterranean diet even bagged the first position in the list of ‘35 Best Diets Overall’, ranked by the U.S. News and World Report. It got ranked high thanks to being highly nutritious and for aiding weight loss. Being relatively easy to follow, the diet is finding itself being advocated by quite a number of people. While all this might make you want to jump on the Mediterranean diet wagon, why not find out everything that it has in store! Right from the foods to eat and avoid to the pros and cons, here’s everything you need to know about the Mediterranean diet. 

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Think of the traditional food that the Greeks and the Italians had, back between the 1960s and the 1970s. The Mediterranean diet finds its basis in these foods that are rich in nutrition. It emphasizes on having fresh produce including vegetables, fish, fruits and whole grains. As these items are a rich source of vitamins, fiber, minerals, healthy fats and phytochemicals, the diet helps in achieving a healthy body. Following the Mediterranean diet, you will not be restricted from having anything except for limiting your intake of red meat, added sugar and highly processed foods. One of the primary reasons for limiting red meat is its possible association with the cardiovascular risk that has been highlighted in this study.  

Foods Included in the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet does not have a particular set of foods that you must put on your plate. This makes it one of the easiest diets to follow. Many even argue that the Mediterranean diet is only a healthy way of eating rather than being a branded as a set diet.

It is observed that Mediterranean diets across different countries, primarily run high on plant-based food, includes seafood at least twice a week, and have relatively a lesser quantity of animal food like red meat. The inclusion of fish in your diet largely benefits you in getting the essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids and antioxidants. You can have vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, tubers, wholegrain, fish and seafood in abundance, while you will have to moderately eat eggs, cheese, yogurt, and poultry products. Also, do not forget to add a dash of foods that have healthy fats like olives, extra virgin olive oil or avocados. These healthy fats are nothing but unsaturated fats that are known to reduce the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in individuals. Wine-lovers can do a little dance of joy as the Mediterranean diet includes moderate amounts of red wine, and that too per day! You can also have coffee and tea, provided they aren’t sweetened with added sugar. One of the reasons to limit intake of sugar is because it is a sweet energy-dense food and a study shows that an increase in its consumption may lead to obesity.      

Foods to Avoid Following the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet does not restrict you from eating any particular food item. But it would be wise to avoid any unhealthy foods or ingredients such as candies or sodas that have added sugar, white bread or pasta made from refined grains, processed meat, or highly processed foods. It is highly recommended that any sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices are to be kept at bay while following this diet. 

Pros and Cons of the Mediterranean Diet

A number of studies have been conducted around the Mediterranean diet till date that evaluate its benefits and drawbacks. Below are a few possible pros and cons of following this diet.

  • The Mediterranean diet includes a wide range of foods and flavors. This fulfills all the nutritional needs of your body. You can follow the dietary guidelines 2015-2020 as laid by the USDA for Mediterranean diet followers to get the most of your diet. While all of this is true, the cost to buy some of the foods included in the diet can be high. Nuts, olive oil, seafood and seeds are a few of the items that can prove to be hard on your pockets. 
  • The Mediterranean diet limits the consumption of dairy products which can cause a drop in the levels of certain nutrients, namely calcium and vitamin D. To compensate this, you can turn towards other options such as soybeans, spinach, and sesame seeds. You can also switch to a modified Mediterranean Diet that includes the intake of milk. You can drink skimmed milk as it is known to provide large amounts of vitamins and minerals with very few calories. 
  • According to a study, you may stand a lower chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes by following the Mediterranean diet. Although, this has been a point of debate amongst health experts. Many believe that the Mediterranean diet meals may run high on carbohydrates that can in turn lead to the spiking of blood sugar levels. So, for those who have diabetes, it is recommended to follow this diet with the assistance of a dietician. 
  • According to a review article published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet is associated with better mental and physical health. It has been observed that  those adopting the Mediterranean Diet have been able to  improve their quality of life.
  • Another study between the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular health gives strong evidence that this method of eating reduces the rates of coronary heart disease.
  • Lastly, there have been some serious concerns raised about the daily intake of wine while following the Mediterranean diet. Although moderate consumption  of alcohol might be associated with lower cardiovascular risk,  it may also prove to be harmful considering the addictive nature of alcohol. Also, a study shows that heavier drinking is associated with mortality risk 

With that being said, the Mediterranean diet may come across as your best option for leading a healthy lifestyle. But like any other diet, it is recommended to weigh the benefits and shortcomings of the diet before you decide to give it a go.  

About the Author : Ketki H is a wandering soul who loves travelling solo, and firmly believes in enjoying the journey rather than hurrying to the destination. Although a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, she took to writing for reaching the masses.

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