What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a dietary pattern modeled after the traditional eating patterns, foods, and drinks of the Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, southern France, Spain, and parts of the middle east.1 The diet is characterized by a high consumption of plant-based foods and healthy fats.1,2 To follow a Mediterranean dietary pattern:
Eat More Of
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Poultry instead of red meat
Eat Less Of
- Red meat
- Sugars and sweets
- Processed foods
What Are the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
Weight – The Mediterranean diet has demonstrated its effectiveness in preventing obesity and promoting sustainable weight loss in various research studies. For instance, a 2011 meta-analysis comparing the Mediterranean diet to low-fat diets found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a significantly greater reduction in body weight and waist circumference.3 It is proposed that the diet’s moderate caloric intake and its emphasis on nutrient-dense and satiating foods help promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction.
Diabetes – Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can also be beneficial for individuals at risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) or those already with T2DM.4–7 For instance, a 2015 meta-analysis found that a greater adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet was associated with decreased risk of T2DM.5 In addition, a study also found that Mediterranean diets with plant-based high-fat foods without caloric restriction reduced the incidence of diabetes by almost 50% when compared to low-fat diets.6,7 Recent evidence demonstrates that the Mediterranean diet can also improve cardiometabolic biomarkers including insulin resistance, hemoglobin A1c, lipid profile, blood pressure, and circulating inflammatory molecules, which may explain the diet’s benefit in reducing the risk of diabetes.4
Heart – Numerous studies have consistently shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with improved cardiovascular (ie, heart and blood-vessel related) health. A 2018 meta-analysis found that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a significantly reduced risk of coronary heart disease (ie, diseases affecting blood vessels of the heart) and overall cardiovascular disease.2 Various other studies have showed that the Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower incidence of major cardiovascular events as well as improvements in cardiovascular risk factors such as inflammatory markers and endothelial (inner membrane of blood vessels) function.8,9 It is proposed that the diet’s emphasis on consuming healthy fats (eg, olive oil, nuts, avocados, omega-3 fatty acids), fruits, and vegetables may play a role in improving cardiovascular health.2
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