While there’s no one Mediterranean diet, this style of eating plan is typically rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fish but relatively low in red meat and dairy products. Sweets and processed foods are occasional treats and wine is consumed in moderation, with a meal.

There is now a significant amount of research showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Studies have shown that this type of eating plan can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Eating a Mediterranean diet also appears to reduce your risk of dying of any cause.  And a recent Australian study, from researchers at the Deakin University Food and Mood Centre, found that a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the symptoms of depression.

There are a number of reasons why this type of eating plan might have so many health benefits. It is based on wholefoods and encourages a high intake of plant foods while being lower in animal fat and protein.  It also focuses on nutrient-dense carbohydrates (such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and legumes) in place of the processed variety, and healthier types of fat (those found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil).

Key Tips for a Mediterranean Diet

If you are ready to adopt a Mediterranean diet, here are a few key tips to get started:

  • Build your meals around grains and vegetables rather than protein
  • Include more fish and legume-based meals in place of red meat
  • Choose a variety of minimally processed and, wherever possible, seasonally fresh and locally grown foods
  • Choose healthy fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds rather than other fats (such as butter, coconut oil and animal fats)
  • Include low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt each day
  • Choose fresh fruit for snacks and desserts, and keep higher fat, higher sugar foods for special occasions
  • If you drink, have wine with your meals, one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women

Also, remember that it’s not just about the food.  Taking time to enjoy meals in the company of others and balancing food with physical activity are also important parts of a typical Mediterranean lifestyle.

For more information:

For more information on a Mediterranean diet, including tips and recipes visit Oldways

References:

Evidence on benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on health

Mediterranean diet and health status: an updated meta-analysis and a proposal for a literature-based adherence score

Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and risk of diabetes

A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial)

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