Does a Mediterranean Diet Really Work? Guide to the Benefits and Food Choices

For those asking the question, “Does the Mediterranean diet work?”, you should know that it’s actually not a real diet plan, or any kind of fad, but a change in lifestyle.  Not only that, it’s a lifestyle that is centuries in the making.  Instead of dieting, you’ll be indulging in all the right foods like healthy grains, nuts, beans, and lean meats.  Wine is a part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, too! Those who live around the Mediterranean sea have lower rates of heart disease compared to Americans.

Mediterranean Diet Magnet.indd

There have been numerous studies regarding the diet of those who live in places like Italy and Greece.  It’s believed that for the most part, they have a better diet than people in other countries, which results in better heart health.  While some people have an image of huge feasts where people are eating pasta and racks of lamb with numerous bottles of wine, it’s actually a diet based on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and the right kind of oils that make the diet so successful.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

  • Prevents heart disease and stroke
  • Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Prevents diabetes
  • Lowers blood sugar levels
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Increases longevity

Is The Mediterranean Diet A Fad?

No, it is quite the opposite.  In fact, you don’t need a diet plan or a shopping list, although we will provide a short one in a moment. It’s all about eating healthy, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.  If you eat foods that are primarily plant based, you’ll be eating much healthier.  On this diet, you can eat as many vegetables throughout the day as you want, but you have to limit what you put on them.

You’ll need to replace butter with healthy oils like olive oil, and replace salt with herbs and spices.  Flavoring your food shouldn’t involve the wrong kinds of fats and oils or salt, which can increase blood pressure.  Can the Mediterranean diet reverse high blood pressure?  Yes, if you’re reducing your use of salt and processed foods, which are high in sodium.

olive oil mediterranean diet

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

Meats

  • Skinless, lean chicken breasts
  • Tilapia, crab meat, shrimp
  • Lean red meat

crab-king-red-alaska-merus-meat-marble2

Beans

  • Navy beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans

Different types of lentils in bowls. Basmati, wild, jasmine, long brown, arborio, sushi

Whole Grains

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Barley

barley

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts

cashews

Fruits & Vegetables, Etc

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Limes
  • Onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • (bright, vibrant vegetables are best)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Oregano
  • Red wine

red wine

Above is a partial list of foods that are perfect for the Mediterranean diet.  Once you get the hang of eating healthy, whole foods instead of processed, you can add plenty more foods to your diet.

Features Lean Proteins

The biggest part of eating healthy like those who live in the Mediterranean is to stay away from red meats.  You can eat lean red meat once a week, but on other days, it’s best to replace that meat with skinless chicken, lean turkey, or fish.  You’re lowering the amount of saturated fat you’re taking into your body when you make this change.  You can start eating tuna and salmon as well. They’re full of omega-3s for a healthy heart.

Lots of Vegetables

You can’t go wrong with plenty of vegetables.  Start with three servings of vegetables throughout the day and increase that as time goes on with your diet.  Adding spinach to your morning eggs, or having carrots and salad with lunch are terrific ways of introducing more vegetables. You’ll soon start eating vegetables for snacks, too.

vegetables mediterranean diet

Indulge in Pasta the Right Way

With this diet, you don’t have to avoid pasta, but you will have to change the kind you eat.  Instead of white pasta, change to whole wheat grains in your pasta as well as your breads.  Quinoa is a grain that you should add to your diet immediately.  Have oatmeal in the morning, or add popcorn without the butter as a snack.

Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes

Heart-healthy nuts like Brazil nuts, walnuts, or almonds are great for a snack, and give you plenty of antioxidants to combat serious illness.  They’ll keep you away from processed snacks since they’re full of protein and incredibly filling.  Beans and seeds are fantastic for adding protein into your diet as well.

nuts mediterranean diet

Snack on Fruits

Fiber, vitamins and antioxidants are vital for a balanced diet, which you can get from fruits.  They’re also a great snack food that has natural sugars for those with a sweet tooth.  Adding brown sugar or honey makes them into a dessert, which is better for you than cake or cookies.

Take Time to Savor

One of the best ways to eat like you’re living in the Mediterranean is to enjoy the company of friends and family while savoring the healthy foods you’re consuming.  It’s a time to drink red wine (in moderation) to help reduce the risk of heart disease.  You’ll be taking some time to relax, which always has stress benefits, too.

eat food with friends and family

Jeanette Kierstead

About the Author

Jeanette Kierstead