What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Published by CONTRAVE Care Team on
It all started in the 1960s. Researchers were studying health and diet around the world and looking for patterns among different cultures. They took a particular interest in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece and Italy. There, curiously, coronary heart disease did not seem as common. They also ate a specific traditional diet. Could there be a connection?
First, let’s take a look at what the Mediterranean diet entails. The Mediterranean diet is one naturally focused on freshness and whole foods. In this way, it contrasts greatly with the standard American diet of highly-processed foods. Central to the Mediterranean diet are plant-based foods. This includes whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Green herbs and colorful spices add flair to this versatile set of ingredients. Followers of the diet can eat fish, seafood, and poultry in moderation, with red meat eaten occasionally. Cheese, too, is included in moderate amounts. Sweets are eaten rarely, and only as a treat.
The Potential Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Back to our researchers–taking a closer look at the nutritional profile of the foods within the Mediterranean diet found that they were low in saturated and trans fats (what we today call the “bad fats”). Instead, the diet made use of unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Later studies would confirm the connection between eating these unsaturated fats and better heart health (and, of course, the opposite). The Medierranean diet is low in saturated and trans fats, and those eating the Mediterranean diet appear to have lower rates of heart disease.
Other studies suggest an additional benefit for followers of the diet. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet—which is found in fish—has also been shown to be correlated to lower rates of heart disease. And of course, eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less red meat, cheese, and sweets can support your healthy eating goals in general.
Easy Ways to Bring the Mediterranean to You
You don’t have to adopt the Mediterranean diet 100% or all at once. One of the great things about the diet is that there are many ways to incorporate its strategies into your own healthy eating plan. Here are a few simple ways to sprinkle in the Mediterranean diet:
- Include a small salad dressed with olive oil with your meals to ensure you’re always eating a veggie.
- Swap out chicken for seafood a couple of times a week. Pair with whole grains and vegetables for a complete meal.
- Cook in extra virgin olive oil, not butter, to keep saturated fats low.
- Enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit for dessert instead of a processed snack.
- Choose whole-wheat grains whenever possible—this is a diet where eating (whole-wheat) pasta is completely acceptable.
- Cook a vegetarian meal at least once a week. Not only will you cut out saturated fats, but you’ll also get to try new recipes and ingredients.
Eat, Laugh, Love
The focus on plant-based foods and healthy fats makes the Mediterranean diet a popular choice for people looking to eat healthier. You can take inspiration from more Mediterranean cultures than their food—spending time with family, going for long walks, and (safely) savoring the sunshine all support a healthy lifestyle.