A Mediterranean diet is adopted from southern European countries that emphasize on eating plant-based foods, olive oil, fish, poultry, beans, and grains. There is no specific diet plan on the Mediterranean diet. It only tells you about certain food types.
Mediterranean diet follows the natural eating habits of different regions such as Crete, Greece, Spain, southern France, Portugal, and Italy.
There is no as such evidence available telling the precise benefits of this diet. But a general overview will tell you that it has low trans fats and absolutely no refined oils. Also, there are no processed meat and its products.
Following a Mediterranean diet helps in problems like obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Food sources in the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet ensures that it is using foods that come from a range of natural and healthy sources. Mainly it consists of
- Fresh vegetables: tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, kale, onions etc.
- Fresh fruits: Apples, figs, grapes, melons, dates, bananas etc.
- Legumes: beans, seeds, nuts (almonds, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds) etc.
- Whole grains: wheat, barley, corn, oats, brown rice etc.
- Fat: only olive oil and avocado oil.
- Dairy: cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt
- Fish, chicken, duck, and poultry
- Limited red meat and sugar
- No more than one glass per day of wine
- No carbonated/sugary drinks
The Mediterranean diet mainly focuses on using healthy food ingredients. Such as
There are low saturated fat and high monounsaturated fat in this diet. Dietary guidelines for the United States (U.S.) recommend that no one should take more than 10% of the saturated fats as a part of daily calorie intake.
If you notice, this diet is high in fiber. Using high amounts of fiber is good for health as it improves digestion and reduces the risk of metabolic problems, cardiovascular diseases, and bowel cancer.
High amount of vitamins and minerals
Both fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins and minerals, which are essentially, require for the body processes. If you are using lean meat, your body will also get vitamins such as B12, which is not usually found in plant foods.
Low sugar content
The Mediterranean diet uses only the natural sweeteners rather than added sugar. For example, you can eat sweet fruits but can’t eat sugar. Using high amounts of sugar increases your daily calorie count and no nutritional benefits.
A high sugar intake is also associated with disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems. Most of the processed foods use sugar that is why you will not see any processed food in this Mediterranean diet.
You may not able to get exact information or a diet plan of Mediterranean diet, since there is no single diet on it. However, you can manually design it for yourself, as per your choice and preference.
Benefits of this diet
The Mediterranean diet is not as such a weight loss plan. But you see when you are not eating anything that adds so many calories to your diet, your weight naturally drops. Cutting on red meats, animal fats, and processed food definitely make you lose weight.
In all those areas where this diet is followed, mortality rates are very low. Also, the risk of diseases is reduced.
Heart health and a Mediterranean diet
Mediterranean diet has been associated with cardiovascular benefits. But it was never the same some years ago. The diet gained popularity in 1the 950s and 1960s. In the United States, it made to common people by 1990s.
The diet was noticed when the Mediterranean regions were found to have a very low disk of mortality and heart problems as compared to New york and other developed areas. Along with other factors such as active lifestyle, reduction in red meats and no added sugars, everything collectively helped to lower the incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease and other conditions.
Research says that this benefit is due to the monounsaturated fats present in the Mediterranean diet, and also the abundant use of fresh fruits and vegetables. The diet contributes to the concentration and function of good cholesterol (High-density lipoprotein -HDL) in the blood. This HDL balances the cholesterol and makes it work in a healthy way.
Protection against diseases by a Mediterranean diet
There are several studies that compare the health risks of developing certain diseases based on what people are eating. Some of them suggest comparing people who adopted the Mediterranean diet with Americans or Northern European following their own dietary preferences.
The results from these studies suggest that Mediterranean dietary choices help to negate a specific genetic mutation, which reduces the risk of diseases i.e. stroke.
The only fat source in this diet is olive oil or avocado oil that has natural antioxidant properties. Its proven to provide protection against atherosclerosis by research. Other studies tell the benefits of antioxidants and fiber intake from the Mediterranean diet on good mental and physical health.
Diabetes and the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet protects the people suffering from type 2 diabetes. It also improves the overall glycemic control. Read more by clicking here.
Those who follow a Mediterranean diet show lower fasting glucose levels that those do not and it is proven by research. The dietary guidelines for diabetic patients as specified by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) are more or less the same as the guidelines for the Mediterranean diet.
Guidelines for the Mediterranean diet
As Mediterranean diet doesn’t give you an exact diet plan to follow, it is necessary to follow the general guidelines for maximizing the benefits of it.
Try following these.
- Use fresh fruits and vegetables abundantly and make these the staple of the diet.
- Add a part of beans in any form along with whole grains in the daily diet.
- Use herbs and spices for seasoning your food and use less salt, sugar etc.
- Cook the food in olive or avocado oil as standard. Do not use butter or any other oil.
- Only focus on eating lean proteins i.e. fish. Do not eat less than 3 ounces (oz) of chicken or red meat in a week.
- Limit your sugar intake and prefer taking the naturally sweet foods i.e. fruits instead of desserts.
- Do not eat processed food in any form.
- Prefer to eat fresh food, which is completely unprocessed.
- Use moderate amounts of olive oil and avocado oil.
Following these steps along with an active lifestyle and a daily physical workout routine, you will be able to lose weight naturally. This doesn’t require any extra effort and guess what, its not even heavy on budget.
A standard meal plan
If you are not sure on what to eat and how to eat, here is a standard diet plan for you. You may add up or eliminate anything as per your choice.
Breakfast———–A medium size bowl of oats, added with fresh fruits and nuts
Afternoon snack——- Vegetables with hummus dip
Lunch ————-Steak with a side of vegetables/spinach and feta stuffed chicken or fish/grilled chicken or fish with herbs and spices
Evening snack—– Yogurt or Greek yogurt with fresh fruits/ a handful of mixed nuts
Dinner————– any fresh fruit or vegetable salad with cheese or olive oil dressing