The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries like Italy and Greece back in 1960. The Mediterranean Diet is more than just a diet, just a food plan. What makes this plan so much healthier, compared to other diets and what does it entail?
What Foods Are On The Mediterranean Diet?
Exactly which foods belong to the Mediterranean diet is controversial, partly because there is such variation between different countries. While many people think Mediterranean diet as stemming from Italy or Greece, it includes countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain and Morocco. Common elements of these diets include fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes and healthy oils.
"Obviously lots of fruits and vegetables. Don't limit yourself. We have broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, onions, peppers, the whole range of vegetables. Make half of your plate of vegetable," said Kathleen Cowden, a registered dietician with Franciscan Health Indianapolis.
Foods to consider for the Mediterranean diet are:
- Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc.
- Nuts: "Look at your almonds, your walnuts and pecans," Cowden said. "A fourth of a cup of almonds is only 150 calories packed full of vitamin E, packed full of fiber, protein, and it gives you that satiety."
- Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.
- Eggs: Chicken, quail and duck eggs.
- Herbs and spices: Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc. "Lemon and lime juice are very important seasonings. And we can't forget our vinegars. This is another great way of seasoning," Cowden said.
- Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil.
The Mediterranean diet includes mindful eating, making the meal the focal point of your day.
Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet
Research shows that people on the Mediterranean diet had a very low rate of heart disease and very healthy and long lives. But why is this? Cowden gives two reasons: a drop in saturated fat and an increase in soluble fiber.
"You're getting rid of saturated fat," Cowden said. "But remember, the red meat is definitely reduced to only a couple of times a month." With a higher emphasis on produce, increased fiber is a natural result of the Mediterranean Diet. “The soluble fiber that you're getting from the vegetables and that you're getting from the beans tracks the cholesterol, and your body excretes it," Cowden said.
The Mediterranean Diet is a plus for heart health, but it's also good for cognition, improving cognition, reducing inflammation, increasing your energy.
How To Shop For The Mediterranean Diet
Most of the items needed for the Mediterranean diet are available in general grocery stores, but some items may require you to go to a specialty store. "Because this diet includes cuisine from Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, not just southern Italy, and Spain and Greece, sometimes you may want to go to a specialty store, an ethnic store to get some of those ingredients," Cowden said. Items for the Mediterranean diet can be kept in the pantry like oil, canned goods like beans, seasonings and rice, so buying those ahead of time and storing them is a good idea. This makes preparing meals and cooking quick and easy if you already have the necessary ingredients.
Ready to get started? Check out these Mediterranean Diet staples to stock your pantry with.