What is the Mediterranean Diet? Article - Allrecipes.com
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What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Discover the health and lifestyle benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

When we think "diet" we tend to think of restrictions, of favorite foods denied. The Mediterranean diet is a little different. It's not necessarily a specific diet plan that you follow for a while; it's more like a way of life that you adopt long-term. It's based on the typical diet of people from Crete and Southern Italy, whose low rates of chronic diseases and longer life spans led researchers to examine their diet to find out what they're doing right!

What are the Secrets of the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet favors lots of fresh fruit and veggies, legumes, fresh fish, nuts, olive oil as the main source of fat, and a bit of red wine with meals. Turns out, it’s a diet that’s good for the body and for the mind. Following a Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower the risk of illnesses, including heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, even Alzheimer’s disease.

Key Foods of the Mediterranean Diet

Plant-Based Foods
Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and herbs and spices form the core of the Mediterranean diet. Beans and nuts are packed with protein without added saturated fat; herbs and spices add flavor without sodium; and whole grains, fruits, and vegetables fill you up and sustain your energy while keeping cravings down. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. It’s used to cook and season food instead of butter, reducing saturated fats. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, which is linked to a reduction in the risk of heart disease.

Fish and Seafood
Fish and seafood provide lean protein, essential nutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids, which promote brain and heart health. Seafood with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish like mackerel, salmon, anchovies, herring, and sardines.

Poultry and Dairy
Additional lean protein comes from poultry, eggs, low-fat cheese, and low-fat yogurt without adding too much fat. Poultry and dairy are eaten less frequently, but are an important part of Mediterranean cooking.

Red Wine in Moderation
It’s true! According to the Mediterranean diet, a glass of red wine with dinner is good for you. Of course, if you don’t drink alcohol or are shooting for weight loss, you can skip it. Otherwise, a little antioxidant-rich red wine each day (one glass) has its health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease.

Foods to Avoid

Two things the Mediterranean diet does well without? Saturated fat and heavily processed foods, which are common in the American diet. Essentially it comes down to cutting out the fatty red meat and favoring whole foods. When eating meat, choose lean cuts with less saturated fat and reduce portion size.

    Living the Mediterranean Lifestyle

    Since the Mediterranean diet is a way of life, it also includes quality of life considerations. Simple pleasures like eating around the table with family and friends are part of the lifestyle. Eating together makes mealtime a leisurely and fulfilling activity contributing to overall happiness and well-being. Regular exercise also fits into this category, and has obvious benefits. Even something as easy as walking burns calories and improves mood.

    Is the Mediterranean Diet right for you?

      By Mia Trost, Healthy Content Editor

        Jul. 25, 2012 3:42 am
        I definately think so.
        Jul. 25, 2012 11:52 am
        We have followed the Med diet for a year and a half. My husband had been diagnosed with fatty liver disease and this diet normalized his liver enzyme count within months. We stray from the diet ocassionally due to vacations and entertaining, however we both agree we feel better when we are on it.
        Jul. 25, 2012 8:52 pm
        Absolutely one of the best plans for our health. As stated, this is not a "loose weight diet", but an enjoyable way of life. After a year of these great recipes the standard American meat and carbs meal will make you ill. Our family has been preparing Med meals for a few years and enjoy the food and the health benefits.
        Aug. 1, 2012 8:58 pm
        I am a vegetarian and this sounds like it may be a good one for me that will cut out the pasta and carbs. Do you all agree?
        Aug. 1, 2012 11:00 pm
        Is capers a fish or seafood or what is it?
        Aug. 2, 2012 12:12 am
        Capers are dark green buds, which come from a Mediterranean shrub. They are sun-dried & packed in vinegar brine. The pungent flavor is good with fish, onions & tomatoes. They can be found where pickles & olives are. They should be rinsed, before using, to get rid of some of the salt.
        Aug. 2, 2012 10:25 am
        Having been born into an Italian family, I can attest to the value of the Mediterranean diet. I have also learned to modify some of the meals by opting for using pasta as a small side helping and using the low-carb/whole grain varieties. I generally use it with chicken as the main food. Other than that, I think it is a "happy" diet and I remember with fondness, the meals ending with fresh fruit and nuts at our table. Buon Appetito!
        Aug. 2, 2012 5:21 pm
        I'm half Greek. I don't eat meat any longer but if you leave out the chicken, you pretty much cover my own idea of a great diet. I still enjoy seafood but the main focus is fresh fruits and vegetables, judicious amounts of whole grains and olive and nut oils over butter whenever possible. Satisfying, healthy and tasty. What more could you want? :-) The Standard American Diet is just that....SAD. This way of eating is so much better. I'm off to make some grilled snapper with fresh tomatoes, grilled corn and summer squash with fresh basil. That's our dinner for tonight. It doesn't get much better than that!
        Aug. 2, 2012 5:28 pm
        And yes, this is a perfect diet for vegetarians!
        Aug. 7, 2012 11:17 am
        I think I will give this a try - need to lose weight, but want to get healthier too. Thanks for putting this article in. It sounds fairly easy to make a switch.
        Aug. 22, 2012 5:31 am
        I have been following this type of 'diet" for three months now and have lost nearly 40 pounds, and that is without exercising (not to say I don't need to, but there are other reasons I haven't--that's changing soon). It was easy, my body is very happy, and I look forward to continuing this eating style for a long time to come.
        Aug. 25, 2012 9:06 pm
        As somebody suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, HBP, Gout and High Cholesterol I have been searching for a healthy diet that I can keep and maintain. I think you just gave me the answer.
        Aug. 26, 2012 11:45 pm
        I was glad to see this on the front page and hope Allrecipes follows up with more Mediterranean articles. I'm on board!!! I really need a change to feel better and lose some weight.
        Sep. 9, 2012 11:39 am
        the charred piece of meat in the first photograph with the article above does not rhyme with a "healthy Mediterranean diet" at all. There's much to much charring of the meat... that's not healthy.
        Feb. 25, 2013 2:33 pm
        After living here in Spain on the Mediterranean for the last twenty four years I can thoroughly recommend the Mediterranean way of eating.Try it and you will be fit and healthy.
        Apr. 4, 2013 11:24 am
        I discovered this "way of eating" 2 years ago. This diet is so good for you that you almost want to preach about it on street corners.
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