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The Mediterranean Diet: What It Is and Why It's Good for You

Updated on April 24, 2018
Olivia Philips profile image

Olivia is a nutritionist and diet, fitness, and weight-loss consultant based in Texas. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Food and Nutrition.


The Mediterranean lifestyle has been seen as one of the world's healthiest ways of living for a long time. There are many pieces of evidence to back the popularity it commands as ‘the healthiest diet’. A diet heavy on plant-based foods, fruits, fish and all healthy fat foods have proved to have greater health benefits than any other foods on the planet.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the conventional foods that people used to eat in countries like Italy, Turkey, and Greece. It is said to have many health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, reduced risk of cancer, Parkinson disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other fatal diseases(1).

A lot of research has been conducted that showed that the Mediterranean people have a healthy lifestyle and low risk of many fatal diseases, as compared to the average American person. Studies also gathered that the Mediterranean diet can help in weight management and lower the risks of many diseases like strokes, heart attack, and type-2 diabetes.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet includes eating foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, fish, high fiber grains and bread, nuts and most importantly olive oil. The recommended foods are rich in monounsaturated fats, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids rather than other fatty foods. The Mediterranean diet is more than just a formal diet plan - it basically reflects the staple diet of people in the region. It emphasizes all foods eaten in France, Spain, Greece and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.

The fats incorporated in the Mediterranean diet are principally from unsaturated and monounsaturated oils such as olive oil, fish oil, and from nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds. All these oils may help in maintaining a healthy heart and protect it from many diseases.

The following are the benefits of Mediterranean Diet

It promotes heart health:

Researchers determined that following a traditional Mediterranean diet which promotes plenty of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 foods may prevent heart disease, lower the risk of a heart attack, control cholesterol levels, and prevent type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. As per the studies conducted, a Mediterranean diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is obtained from olive oil has a noticeable protective effect, with some finding that a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the risk of cardiac mortality by 30 percent and sudden cardiac death by 45 percent (2). Olive oil is also beneficial for decreasing hypertension as it makes nitric oxide bioavailable, which helps to keep arteries widened and clear.

It may prevent or treat Diabetes:

The Mediterranean diet might also help to prevent diabetes as it controls excess levels of insulin, which is a hormone that controls blood sugar levels and makes us gain weight. The Mediterranean diet is low in sugar, because the only sugar included in the diet usually comes from fruit, wine, and the occasional dessert.

It helps you to lose weight in a healthy and effective way:

If you are looking to lose weight there may be nothing better than following a Mediterranean diet. As the foods incorporated in this diet help you lose weight without feeling hungry all the time in a realistic and natural way. The diet concentrates on eating healthy fats which help to keep carbohydrates relatively low and improving a person’s consumption of high-quality proteins such as legumes and grains. The high amount of seafood and quality dairy products provides other benefits like omega-3s and often probiotics. (3)

It may help lower the risks of Cancer:

The effect of a balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 vital fatty acids and high amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and polyphenols found in fruit, vegetables, olive oil and wine may help in lower the risk of cancer. (4)

It helps you to relax in a more stress-free atmosphere:

As discussed earlier Mediterranean diet is not merely a diet plan it is a Mediterranean lifestyle that one should look forward to- like making mealtime a more social activity and spending more time exercising and getting outside. Incorporating these activities can help you relax and indulge in experiences with family and friends which will have a huge impact leading to a healthy and stress-free life.

It is low in processed food and sugar:

The Mediterranean diet, in contrast to the typical American diet, is very low in sugar and almost free of all GMOs or artificial ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup as well as preservatives and flavor enhancers(5). When it comes to eating sweets Mediterranean diet includes fruits and homemade desserts that have natural sweeteners in it.

It can help you maintain flexibility as you age:

Mediterranean diet includes foods that are rich sources of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It benefits the person with a reduced risk of developing muscle infirmity or other signs of increased susceptibility. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins can be an important way to ensure lasting suppleness and help those who want to maintain a healthy and firm body in adulthood.

It can help to relieve pain:

Mediterranean diet food includes magnesium-rich whole grain, high-fiber fruits, and vegetables. Magnesium as per the studies is a mineral that has helps to fight muscle pain in several animals. Those people who suffer from chronic pain due to obesity, this diet plan can help you reduce dependency on painkillers. Excessive use of painkillers can even lead to addiction so better to include food in your diet that can help you get rid of it. Start eating more dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans and lentils, whole grains, and even dark chocolate to maximize the benefit of magnesium's pain relieving power.

mediterranean frittata
mediterranean frittata | Source

Mediterranean Diet Meals for Beginners

Pita with Yogurt Sauce and Veggies


  • 1/2 cup plain light yogurt

  • 1/2 finely chopped cucumber

  • 1/2 minced garlic clove

  • Salt to taste

  • Pepper to taste

  • 6 1/2-inch whole-wheat pita

  • Five halved grapes and tomatoes

  • 1 cup string beans

  • 1 cup (about 23) fresh cherries

How to Prepare:

  • Mix together yogurt with cucumber, garlic and a shake of salt and pepper.

  • Spread half of the yogurt sauce on one pita and fill with grape tomatoes and string beans. Serve with fresh cherries.

Mediterranean Frittata


  • 6 eggs

  • 1/2 cup milk or cream

  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

  • 1/4 cup chopped Spanish olives

  • 1 cup chopped spinach

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta (salty Greek cheese)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon oregano

How to Prepare:

  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

  • Grease an 8-inch pie pan

  • Whisk the eggs and milk together until well blended.

  • Add all the remaining ingredients and mix it with eggs.

  • Bake it for about15-20 minutes.

  • It is super easy and adaptable breakfast recipe and can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

Mediterranean Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce


Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 1 16 ounces roasted red peppers

  • 1 clove garlic

  • Salt as per your taste

  • One lemon Juice

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 cup almonds

For the Mediterranean Bowls:

  • Cooked quinoa

  • Spinach, kale, or cucumber

  • White beans

  • Kalamata olives

  • Pepperoncini

  • Sliced red onion (thin slices)

  • Hummus

  • Fresh basil

  • Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper

How to Prepare:

  • Pulse all the ingredients together for the sauce in a blender until it becomes a smooth paste.

  • Cook the quinoa according to package directions.

  • Store the sauce and quinoa in separate containers and assemble the bowl just before serving, as it will get soggy when stored together for a long time.

Chopped Caprese Salad

This is an easy Mediterranean diet recipe and it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.


  • 1 10 oz. container grape tomatoes, halved

  • 4 ounces fresh cubed mozzarella cheese

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  • Sea salt to taste

How to Prepare:

  • In a medium bowl, stir together the cut up tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves.

  • Add olive oil to the bowl and lightly toss together as well.

  • Sprinkle the balsamic vinegar over the top of the salad and add salt as per your taste. Mix all the ingredients together.







© 2018 Olivia Philips


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