What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet reflects the general eating patterns and physical lifestyle from countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. These regions include France, Greece, Italy and Spain. There is no one Mediterranean diet pattern, but instead a lifestyle filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources like fish and nuts.  Here are the basic eating patterns from the Mediterranean diet:   

Eating pattern examples with quantities

Physical Aspects of the Mediterranean Diet  

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy the Food 

The Mediterranean diet also includes participating in physical aspects similar to the Mediterranean lifestyle. For example, it is important that during mealtime that you are taking your time with no rush or distractions. In regions near the Mediterranean Sea, it is usually mealtime tradition to take time to sit, relax and enjoy the food and company around you. During mealtime, eliminate television and eating in front of a screen. This helps our body listen to our hunger and fullness cues which in turn helps us with weight management.  

Physical Activity is Key 

Another important aspect of the Mediterranean diet is physical activity. Getting active can be as simple as walks throughout the day or visiting your nearby gym to get your body moving. A good goal is to get moving for 150 minutes per week. This includes any activity that increases your heart rate. This can include biking, swimming, or running. Physical activity is good for heart health, bone health, mental health, and weight management.  

Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet  

Over the past decade, the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet has largely increased. This is most likely due to the health benefits it offers. Because this diet includes large amounts of vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber this diet has potential to prevent or reduce the risk of chronic diseases including:  

Heart Disease  

Because the Mediterranean diet is low in processed foods and saturated fats like red meat, fried foods, butter and salt which are all foods that can contribute to higher LDL cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol can be considered the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to plaque buildup in our arteries. This places stress on our heart.  

Type 2 Diabetes  

The Mediterranean diet is also great for diabetes management. This diet is full of fiber which can help stabilize blood sugar levels after mealtime. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  

References: 

National Health Service UK https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-is-a-mediterranean-diet/

Melinda Smith, M.A, Lawrence Robinson & Robert Segal, M.A The Mediterranean diet https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/the-mediterranean-diet.htm