Mediterranean food or the Mediterranean diet includes plant-based foods, such as hummus, spices, eggplant, stews, lentils, and olive oil.
Mediterranean food or the Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet followed by the people of countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, as well as various Middle Eastern countries. Although, the diet can vary to a degree by country or region.
The Mediterranean diet has been gaining a lot of popularity recently because it is well-balanced, provides numerous health benefits, and can help facilitate weight loss. The lifestyle diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, grains, legumes, cereals, grains, and unsaturated fats, which are healthy fats, such as olive oil. Typically low on meat and dairy, Mediterranean foods favor seafood, poultry, or eggs in moderation, such as one or two times a week, while red meat is avoided or consumed rarely.
Foods of the Mediterranean diet and their health benefits
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: Have several vitamins that people need daily.
- Nuts and seeds: Rich sources of essential minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
- Olive oil: Contains unsaturated fatty acids, which help increase good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol in the body.
- Dairy: Has good amounts of calcium, healthy carbohydrates, and fats.
- Red wine: Helps reduce oxidative stress in the body.
- Fish and eggs: Rich sources of proteins, vitamins, and healthy fats.
Main features of the Mediterranean diet
- Daily intake of high amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Daily intake of nuts and herbs
- Using extra virgin olive oil as a source of fats
- Consumption of seafood, poultry, or egg in moderation, one or two times a week
- Avoiding red meat consumption as much as possible
- Avoiding sweets and junk food consumption
- Drinking lots of water
- Taking red wine in limited quantities
- Frequent consumption of healthy sources of dairy, such as low-fat yogurt and cheese
Ingredients for proper Mediterranean cuisine can be found in the table below.
Asparagus, artichokes, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, green beans, mushrooms, olives, peas, squash
Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, cherries, dates, figs, grapes, lemons, melon, oranges, peaches, plums, pomegranates
Yogurt (Greek yogurt), cheeses (feta cheese, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, parmesan), eggs
Walnuts, almonds, cashews, flax, peanuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
Black beans, chickpeas, hummus, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, white beans
Basil, bay leaves, cilantro, mint, parsley, oregano
Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, grape seed oil
Barley, bulgur, freekah, couscous, oatmeal, pasta, polenta, quinoa, rice, bread (pita)
Sardines, cod, wild salmon, shellfish, tuna
What are the benefits of a Mediterranean diet?
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Adequate fulfillment of nutrition: As this diet has all the items present in balance, such as carbs, fats, and proteins, along with other micronutrients in the body, it fulfills the daily macro and micro needs of the body.
- Improved heart health: The food items in this diet have plenty of antioxidants as well as good fats, which prevent atherosclerosis and improve heart health.
- Better management of diabetes and hypertension: This is due to the restriction of sugary and processed foods that lower insulin resistance and help manage blood pressure and sugar levels.
- Better mental health: The fish has omega-3 fatty acids and the nuts and herbs contain rare minerals and micronutrients that are needed for better brain functioning.
- Better weight management: There is good calorie management and no excessive intake of carbohydrates and fats, which keeps body weight in check.
- Reduced inflammation in the body: Red wine, fruits, and vegetables keep the oxidative free radicals in check, which are usually the main cause of inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis.
- Cancer prevention: The various antioxidants may help reduce the chances of cell damage and getting cancer.
- Eco-friendly diet: The diet is well balanced with plants and animal nutrition and doesn’t include extensive processed food, which harms the environment.
What are the problems associated with the Mediterranean diet?
Some cons to this diet include:
- Expensive diet: Following this diet and having all the elements mentioned can be a little heavy on the pocket.
- Time-consuming: Preparing meals and fetching the ingredients fresh and regularly can take up a lot of time.
- Hard diet restrictions: Because this diet does not allow junk food, processed food, or sugar cravings, it can become difficult to sincerely stick to it for a very long time, especially while working, going out, or traveling.
- No specific guidelines: The Mediterranean diet itself does not specify how much of what to consume or the exact method of preparation of various dishes, which leaves a grey area causing confusion among people following the diet.
- Improper alcohol intake: As consumption of red wine is promoted, there is a greater risk of its abuse than its actual health benefit.