But what is the Mediterranean diet? Many different countries border the Mediterranean Basin and Mediterranean cuisine is varied.
So sorting out a healthy Mediterranean diet plan can get confusing.
The traditional Mediterranean diet, before the 1960’s, in countries like Southern Italy and Greece, was mainly fresh vegetables, fish and healthy fats – a good deal healthier than typical modern diets today.
Life expectancy was high, with a much lower incidence of degenerative diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes.
What is the Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle?
The traditional healthy Mediterranean diet plan was abundant in fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
- They ate mainly plant foods – whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts. And fresh fruits and vegetables were eaten in large quantities, up to ten or more servings a day.
- Organic olive oil was used generously. Total dietary fat content could be up to 35% of calories. But saturated fat was only 8% or less.
- Fish was eaten at least two or three times a week. And poultry was served weekly.
- Dairy products were consumed daily in small amounts, mainly as yogurt and cheese.
- Whole eggs were served several times a week, often used in whole grain baked goods.
- Lean red meat was eaten only a few times a month.
- Honey, as their principle sweetener, was used just occasionally.
- Drinking one or two daily glasses of red wine was common.
The Mediterranean life was a healthy lifestyle. Healthy living, including the daily physical labor necessary for survival, provided lots of exercise.
Social and family ties were very strong and supportive. Everyone got together for fun and relaxed meals and they often took a midday rest.
The Mediterranean Diet Plan Best for You
Since it doesn’t require radical restrictions of fats or carbs, this healthy Mediterranean diet plan is fairly easy to maintain on a long-term basis.
- Eat an abundance of natural whole plant foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. A healthy daily salad is an excellent idea.
- Include plenty of high fiber foods, including fruits, vegetables and 100% whole grain cereals, pasta and sprouted breads.
- Use organic extra virgin olive oil on salads and bread (instead of butter). But remember, olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon.
- Incorporate plenty of fatty fish in your diet, such as salmon, trout and tuna, or take daily omega 3 fish oil supplements.
- Keep saturated fats to a minimum. Choose foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fish, lean poultry and low or non-fat dairy over red meat. And use cheese and butter only in moderation.
- Serve beans with meals and eat almonds or walnuts for snacks.
- If you drink alcohol, limit it to one or two glasses daily.
- Totally avoid Trans-fatty acids (found mainly in partially hydrogenated oils and deep fried foods) and eliminate all high glycemic foods index carbohydrates (such as white pasta).
Also make sure that your calorie intake supports a normal healthy weight.
Now that you know how to follow the Mediterranean diet plan for good health, it’s time to get started. So chow down – and bon appetite!
More Commonsense Health for You:
How to Eat Less Food Calories Tips
“Refined” Bad Carb Sweet Sugar Death
Secrets of Health from the Healthiest People
Top 10 Healthiest Foods for Eating Healthy Meals
Shai I, Schwarzfuchs D, Henkin Y, et al. New England Journal of Medicine. Comparing the effectiveness and safety of weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med 2008;359:229-41.
Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Mantzoros CS, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. American Heart Association. Mediterranean diet and incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke in women. Circulation 2009;119:1093-100.
Ruano J, Lopez-Miranda J, Ruano J et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Intake of phenol-rich virgin olive oil improves the postprandial prothrombotic profile in hypercholesterolemic patients. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:341-346.
Berr C, Portet F, Carriere I, Akbaraly TN et al. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders. Olive Oil and Cognition: Results from the Three-City Study. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2009;28(4):357-64. Epub 2009 Oct 30.
Kastorini CM, Milionis HJ, Esposito K, Giugliano D, Goudevenos JA, Panagiotakos DB. Journal American College of Cardiology. The effect of Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome and its components: a meta-analysis of 50 studies and 534,906 individuals. J Am Coll Cardiol 2011;57:1299-313.
Mohagheghi F, Bigdeli MR, Rasoulian B, et al. Scientific World Journal. Dietary virgin olive oil reduces blood brain barrier permeability, brain edema, and brain injury in rats subjected to ischemia-reperfusion. ScientificWorldJournal 2010 Jun 29;10:1180-91. 2010.