With the wide variety of dietary plans available out there, it’s no wonder that people change their diets, trying to find something that works for them. For example, the Paleo Diet, the Nordic diet, and the Atkins diet are all different diet forms that are very popular.
Another dietary plan that’s very common is the Mediterranean diet. It’s based on simple and fresh produce and ingredients that are great for your health. But what exactly goes into the Mediterranean diet?
- The Mediterranean diet is becoming increasingly more popular these days, as more and more people are looking for healthy eating patterns that include a lot of fresh, nutritious produce.
- As a result, diets like the Mediterranean eating plan are prevalent around the world. They’re based on fresh, simple ingredients, such as lots of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, and moderate amounts of fish and seafood.
- As a result, the Mediterranean diet is very good for your health.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
A Mediterranean diet is most commonly consumed in Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Spain, Croatia, France, and Greece. It’s categorized by consuming many vegetables and olive oil but not too much protein. Studies believe that such a diet offers plenty of health benefits.
The Mediterranean diet primarily includes fresh, low-calorie, and nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and veggies, whole grains, olive oil, fish, seafood, and other products.
Is the Mediterranean diet healthy?
Various research supports the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. For instance, it helps promote weight loss thanks to all the nutrients it contains, such as fiber, which helps prevent overeating.
This diet also helps prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and premature death. It also can reduce inflammation and prevent various chronic conditions.
More specifically, the Mediterranean diet promotes heart health by lowering your blood pressure, preventing plaque buildup in your arteries, and promoting efficient blood circulation throughout your body.
In addition, consuming the Mediterranean diet supports healthy blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of diabetes. It also decreases insulin resistance and helps your body regulate blood pressure.
Plus, several studies indicate that following this type of diet can prevent cognitive decline with age. Because of that, you’re at a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive impairment.
Most of these benefits come from the healthy, fresh ingredients that this diet is based on.
So, following this diet is very beneficial for your health.
Most Common Foods in the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on some of the most common and fresh ingredients. They serve as the base, and then you can create a meal around them.
Fruits are an important part of the Mediterranean diet. The most common ones include apples, apricots, avocados, cherries, clementines, figs, dates, grapefruits, tomatoes, pomegranates, olives, and peaches.
As you can see, the selection is very broad, so everyone can find something that works for them.
Fruits are a wonderful source of several nutrients, such as fiber. It helps feed the ‘good’ gut bacteria residing in your digestive tract, improve digestion, and prevent overeating. As a result, it’s important to consume a lot of fiber-rich foods.
In addition, eating a lot of foods helps prevent mineral and vitamin deficiencies since this type of produce is loaded with micronutrients. They also provide you with plenty of powerful antioxidants, so you’re at a lower risk of various chronic health conditions.
Just like fresh fruit, vegetables of all kinds play an integral role in the Mediterranean diet. Some of the most popular ones include broccoli, onions, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
They’re often boiled, grilled, or roasted, often with extra virgin olive oil for added flavor and healthy fats.
Veggies in the Mediterranean diet are incredibly important, as they serve as the base for most meals. Since this diet tends to consume less meat than some other types of dietary plans, veggies are essential.
Similar to fruits, vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Depending on which ones you choose, you get almost all your daily need for these nutrients in a single serving.
3. Whole grains
Whole grains are another food group that’s the base for the Mediterranean diet. Some of the ones you can eat are oats, brown rice, rye, barley, buckwheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, and corn.
One of the most important nutrients that whole grains provide you with is fiber. Some of these contain soluble, while others provide you with insoluble fiber – both of which are incredibly important for the health of your digestive system.
Both of these fiber types work together to help with digestion, feed the ‘good’ gut bacteria, and promote healthy bowel movements. So, eating lots of whole grains is very important.
Aside from fiber, whole grains also contain a lot of B vitamins and plenty of minerals. As a result, basing your diet around them can help with preventing mineral deficiencies.
4. Healthy fats
Healthy fats in a Mediterranean diet include extra virgin olive oil, avocados, olives, and avocado oil. These contain lots of heart-friendly compounds that prevent plaque buildup in your arteries, reducing your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Consuming healthy fats can also be beneficial for weight loss, as they help you feel fuller for longer after eating, which prevents overeating.
Healthy fats also improve the absorption of certain nutrients, especially fat-soluble vitamins. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K, and they play crucial roles in your health and disease prevention.
So, consuming these healthy fats is beneficial for your body.
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are crucial ingredients of the Mediterranean diet.
They’re rich in minerals, healthy fats, vitamins, and antioxidants that improve your health and prevent diseases. Some of them are also exceptionally rich in fiber, which means eating them also aids in digestion.
Nuts and seeds can be added to larger mixed dishes, sprinkled on top of salads, and even consumed as a snack between meals.
So, you have plenty of options when it comes to how to incorporate them into your Mediterranean diet.
6. Beans and other legumes
Beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas are all examples of legumes that can be a part of the Mediterranean diet.
Legumes are a great source of protein, particularly for those who don’t eat meat or limit their intake. A single serving of beans can provide you with as much as 30% of your daily recommended need for protein, which is a very impressive amount.
Protein helps build your muscles, prevent overeating, and boost your metabolism, making it a very important nutrient.
In addition, legumes are rich in fiber, B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and plenty of other minerals. So, by eating this type of food, you’re avoiding mineral deficiencies.
7. Lean poultry
The Mediterranean diet also allows moderate amounts of lean poultry like chicken, duck, and turkey. This diet focuses on lean meats to avoid consuming too much fat from meat, so pork and beef aren’t part of this diet.
Lean poultry contains lots of protein in a single serving – as much as 70% of your daily need, depending on the type of poultry you choose.
It also provides you with plenty of B vitamins, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, and phosphorus. These nutrients boost your immune system, keep your bones healthy, and even contribute to disease prevention.
The best ways to prepare lean poultry for the Mediterranean diet are boiling, roasting, or grilling them. These cooking methods avoid adding oils, which unnecessarily increase your calorie intake.
Fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel, are also very common in the Mediterranean diet. This type of fish can be consumed both fresh and cooked or canned as well.
Fish is a great source of important nutrients like protein, healthy fats (tuna and mackerel), and various vitamins and minerals. So, eating them is very good for your health.
Some studies even show that fish contains better quality protein than some cuts of meat, which makes fish a wonderful addition to any diet, not just the Mediterranean one.
Fish can be served with various vegetables and other healthy fats, creating a balanced dinner that doesn’t contain too many calories.
As a result, fish is a staple in this dietary plan.
Seafood, such as shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, and crab, are also very popular sources of protein in the Mediterranean diet.
This crucial food group can be easily incorporated into simple meals like veggies with salmon or larger dishes like paella – a rice dish with seafood and vegetables.
Seafood is also an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, iron, copper, and manganese, reducing your risk of deficiencies and improving your health. It’s also much lower in calories and fat than some other protein sources like fatty fish and meat.
So, it might be beneficial to eat seafood if your goal is weight loss.
Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk are also part of the Mediterranean diet.
Cheese like feta is often added to salads, and yogurt can be consumed with fresh veggies or fruit for added flavor and nutrition.
Dairy products are a good source of all B vitamins, vitamin D, minerals, and protein, which makes them very balanced foods. Eating them can also help keep your bones strong and healthy, reducing your risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
Eggs from chicken, quail, and duck are also quite popular in the Mediterranean diet.
They are most often eaten boiled, both soft- and hard-boiled since frying adds too many calories and fat.
Depending on the animal they come from, eggs are a rich source of nutrients like protein, vitamin A, folate, phosphorus, biotin, and selenium. So, eating them is very beneficial for disease prevention.
Studies also show that eggs are good for the health of your heart, reducing your risk of heart attacks and improving cholesterol levels.
12. Leafy greens
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula are very important in the Mediterranean diet. They are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, contributing to good health.
What’s more, they are full of fiber, which improves digestion and keeps your digestive tract in top shape.
Leafy greens are often included in salads, but you can also chop them up and add them to larger dishes.
While it might seem like a no-brainer, water is one of the most common beverage choices for people following the Mediterranean diet.
It doesn’t contain any calories yet provides you with lots of hydration. You can drink it with mint, lemon slices, or fruit for added flavor, especially if you find that drinking plain water is difficult for you.
Sugary beverages like soda are limited on the Mediterranean diet. So, drinking water, but also tea, is the most common way to stay hydrated.
14. Red wine
Red wine is another beverage that is a staple in the Mediterranean diet. It boasts a lot of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of strokes, and improved heart health. So, it’s beneficial to have some every once in a while.
Still, red wine might not be for everyone. For example, people dealing with alcoholism, liver disease, and several other conditions might need to avoid wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Also, remember that these health benefits only come if you drink only one glass a day. In the long run, anything more than that can be bad for your health.
15. Herbs and spices
The Mediterranean diet stresses the importance of herbs and spices. Some of the most common ones include garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, and pepper.
Eating herbs has been shown to prevent and manage heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It can also reduce your risk of blood clots and provide you with lots of anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.
So, consuming foods with herbs and spices is not only delicious but also incredibly healthy.
As you can see, following the Mediterranean diet isn’t too difficult. This diet is based on fresh ingredients, such as veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, seafood, fish, and other natural ingredients.
Because of that, it’s very easy to incorporate these foods into your diet, thus improving your health. The only thing you have to do is to stock up on these foods and create meals around them.