Researchers since the 1950s noted that people residing in the Mediterranean Sea were exceptionally healthy and had a low risk of many lifestyle diseases when compared to Americans. The reason: the Mediterranean diet!1 There is no wonder the Mediterranean diet is well-loved by nutritionists, physicians, and food lovers.2
The Mediterranean diet is technically a diet based on the traditional foods that people have been eating for centuries in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, like Italy, Greece, Israel, Egypt, among many others).
What does the Mediterranean Diet entail?
There is no one right way to follow the Mediterranean diet: as there are many countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea and people in these countries may have eaten different food. This creates different food options and results in a lot of choices, comprising fruits, vegetables, grains, and other whole food options—making this diet easy to observe and not restrictive.1,2
In true Mediterranean style this diet must be bundled with regular exercise and emphasis on social connection, such as eating relaxed meals with family and friends, sharing food with other people, and enjoying life.1,2
Studies in the US and various countries show that this diet can cause weight loss. In one study, people who stuck to a non-calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet for 5 years lost between 9 and 22 pounds and maintained their weight after 1 year.1,2,3
This diet backs brain function with less risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as per US studies.2 This diet can help to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases, as recorded in the landmark Seven Countries Study back in the 1950’s and in succeeding observations.1,2,3
Studies in European countries noted the Mediterranean diet as linked to reduced risk of cancers—breast, prostate, rectal, and colon.2 While this diet has also been linked by studies in the US and European countries to the reduction of risks to type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis.2,3
Finally, multinational studies observed the
Mediterranean diet can also help prevent premature death and ensure longevity.1,2,3 We can see why health experts recommend such a diet and lifestyle.
Outline of food
Vegetables, tubers, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, breads (see below), herbs, spices, fish, and seafood mostly compose the Mediterranean diet. This diet is high in healthy plant food and low in animal food.2
For the Mediterranean diet, we can eat more vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, kale, eggplants, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and cucumbers, among others.1,2 We can eat tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and yams.
Recommended also are lots of fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches, and more. Fruit as dessert is what makes this diet Mediterranean.1,2
We can eat nuts and seeds like almonds, pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.1,2
Legumes like beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, and chickpeas can be eaten. 1,2
Whole grains to consume are whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, and whole wheat. Whole-grain bread and pasta can be eaten. 1,2
Fish and seafood like salmon (wild-caught especially), herring, anchovies, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, crab, and mussels can be eaten. 1,2
Herbs and spices like garlic, pepper, basil, mint, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, turmeric, saffron, paprika, coriander, cardamom, sumac, and hyssop are included in this diet; included too are sea salt and cinnamon as condiments. 1,2
What is remarkable of the Mediterranean diet is the healthy fats like avocadoes and avocado oil, and olives and extra virgin olive oil.1 If there is one thing unique about the Mediterranean diet, it is the extensive use of olive oil. Wonder no more about its high standing in the Mediterranean diet—it has monounsaturated fat content and Vitamin K component along with effects that reduce cancers and cardiovascular diseases.4
Poultry and pastured eggs are part of this diet, but these are only eaten in moderation. Poultry like chicken, turkey and duck can be eaten. Eggs from chickens, ducks and quails are recommended.1
Milk and other dairy are included in this diet, but these are taken as a condiment, not a staple.5 Other dairy to consume is yogurt, traditional cheese and Greek yogurt.1 Traditional cheese you can sample are gorgonzola, feta and goat cheese.2
Red meat is part of the diet, but it is recommended to be eaten once or twice a month.1
Any whole and single ingredient food can be eaten in this diet, being the key to good health.
Water is the recommended beverage in the Mediterranean diet. Red wine is included in the diet, though it is completely optional. You can drink lots of water and choose to drink 1 glass of red wine a day.1,2 Coffee and tea can be consumed too—no sugar involved though.2
What is notable in the Mediterranean diet is the absence of the following: processed food (processed meat like hotdogs and sausages, low-fat milk, diet soda), added sugar (table sugar, ice cream, fruit juices, sweetened beverages, other sweets), trans fats (in margarine), refined grains (white bread, pasta from refined wheat) and refined oils (canola oil, soybean oil, the like).1,2
Here is a sample Mediterranean diet menu worth 7 days. This can be observed with adjustments to portions and food choices, based on your needs.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with strawberries and oats
Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich with vegetables
Dinner: Tuna salad dressed in olive oil along with a piece of fruit for dessert.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins
Lunch: Leftover tuna salad from last night
Dinner: Salad with tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese
Breakfast: Omelette with veggies, tomatoes, and onions, along with a piece of fruit
Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich, with cheese and fresh vegetables
Dinner: Mediterranean lasagne
Breakfast: Yogurt with sliced fruits and nuts
Lunch: Leftover lasagne from last night
Dinner: Broiled salmon, served with brown rice and vegetables
Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, fried in olive oil
Lunch: Greek yogurt with strawberries, oats and nuts
Dinner: Grilled lamb, with salad and baked potato
Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins, along with nuts and an apple
Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich with vegetables
Dinner: Mediterranean pizza made with whole wheat, topped with cheese, vegetables and olives
Breakfast: Omelette with veggies and olives
Lunch: Leftover pizza from last night
Dinner: Grilled chicken, along with a potato and vegetables, plus a piece of fruit for dessert1
A day of 3 meals is enough in the Mediterranean diet. If you become hungry between meals though, here are snack options to consider.
- A handful of nuts
- A piece of fruit
- Carrots or baby carrots
- Some berries or grapes
- Greek yogurt
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Leftovers from the night before1
Now is the time to follow this diet so traditional and so beneficial for you.
1Gunnars, K (2018, July 24). Mediterranean Diet 101: A Meal Plan and Beginner’s Guide. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan
2What Is the Mediterranean Diet & Why Is It So Popular? (2018, October 10). Retrieved from
3Gunnars, K (2020, March 20). 5 Studies on the Mediterranean Diet — Does it Work? Healthline.
4Barham-Floreani, J (2012, March 20). A Quick Look at Everyday Oils. Well Adjusted.
5Barham-Floreani, J (2013, January 28). Milk: Is It A Health Food or Not? Well Adjusted.