The Mediterranean diet is a flexible eating style that promotes natural foods, excludes overly processed items like sweets and processed meats, and encourages eating for pleasure. Hundreds of studies show that eating this way is good for your health. Here are the greatest foods to eat on this top-ranked diet in celebration of International Mediterranean Diet Month.
The Mediterranean diet has several health advantages.
Let’s talk about why this eating pattern is so healthy before we get into the foods consumed in the Mediterranean. According to research, the Mediterranean diet may protect against strokes and heart attacks, memory loss, type 2 diabetes, and depression. It’s also linked to a higher life expectancy. In addition to these advantages, the Mediterranean diet has been associated with a healthy body weight.
The Mediterranean diet’s emphasis on plant foods is one of the reasons it is so beneficial. These foods are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that address the fundamental causes of most health issues. In a nutshell, plant-based compounds reduce inflammation, create a varied and healthy gut environment, and protect against free radical damage that causes oxidative stress.
These excellent health advantages may be attributed to some of the Mediterranean diet’s all-star staples:
olive oil (extra virgin).
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) is a key component of the Mediterranean diet. Monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, antioxidants that protect against free radical damage, are abundant in EVOO. An imbalance of antioxidants to free radicals causes oxidative stress, which promotes a variety of illnesses. A diet high in antioxidants, such as those found in EVOO and other plant foods, may help to prevent this. The chemicals in EVOO are also beneficial to intestinal health.
Make EVOO your go-to cooking oil to eat like the Mediterranean’s do. Use it to cook your vegetables and as a seasoning on salads, pasta, and toast. To keep the health benefits of EVOO, purchase it before it expires and keep it in a cold, dark area. Because light may degrade the quality of EVOO, store it in a dark container.
Vegetables and fruits.
You’re undoubtedly aware that fruits and vegetables are nutritious powerhouses, which is why they’re such an important part of the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diners stuff their plates with veggies at every meal. Fruit is eaten many times a day in the Mediterranean area, and it may also be found in sweets (think berries marinated with balsamic vinegar or poached pears with yoghurt sauce).
When it comes to vegetables, forget about little salads and side dishes. Luxurious salads and veggie-heavy pasta meals, grain salads, soups, and stews all include these ingredients.
Fish is a major source of animal protein in the Mediterranean diet, and it’s consumed at least twice a week, as recommended by the American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This amount, according to key research, reduces your odds of dying from heart disease by 36%. Another study discovered that people who eat fish regularly live 2.2 years longer than those who do not. Furthermore, data shows that those who consume fish have a decreased incidence of depression and have better brain health and reasoning abilities as they become older.
If fish isn’t on your normal menu, try pairing it with familiar items. Add smoked salmon to scrambled eggs, fish tacos, or shrimp to your favorite stir-fry, for example.
Nuts are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and each kind has its own set of benefits. Almonds, for example, have the greatest vitamin E content of any nut, Brazil nuts have the highest magnesium content, and walnuts are the only nut that has a good supply of plant-based omega 3 ALA. These plant-based lipids are related to omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and provide powerful anti-inflammatory protection.
According to a review of research published in 2022, plant-based ALAs may decrease total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The researchers also found intriguing evidence that ALAs may help prevent type 2 diabetes and age-related cognitive decline. They also claim that around 12 ounces of walnuts per day provide health advantages, even though the Mediterranean diet recommends up to two 1-ounce doses of different nuts each day.
Add nuts and seeds (such as chia, pumpkin, and sesame seeds) to stir-fries, baked goods, fruit dishes, and trail mixes to quickly reach this amount.
Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are examples of pulses, which are high in health-promoting elements. Eating these foods regularly is linked to improved heart health, digestive health, lifespan, and a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Try substituting legumes for meat at certain meals to keep in line with Mediterranean tradition. One method is to include them in delectable meat-free recipes like burgers, chili, and tomato sauce. Pulses are eaten at least twice a week on the Mediterranean diet, but they may easily be included in any meal or snack. Toss white beans into a smoothie or sauté them with greens; eat roasted chickpeas or hummus as a snack; and use them in soups, salads, gritty side dishes, and pasta.
Each Mediterranean meal usually includes one to two servings of healthy grains. Evidence shows that consuming whole grains as part of a Mediterranean diet may minimize your risk of heart disease and death from it, as well as type 2 diabetes.
2022 research shows whole grain fiber is highly protective against disease-promoting inflammation. However, keep in mind that portion sizes may be lower than in a typical American diet. Italian scientists recommended a revised Mediterranean diet pyramid in 2019, recommending 90 to 180 grammes of whole grain carbs per day, or one to two cups of whole grains at each meal. The balance of the dish is made up of vegetables and other plant-based items like nuts and pulses.
Pasta merits particular attention since it is a refined grain that is both a component of Mediterranean cuisine and a refined grain. Overall, refined grains are consumed less often on the Mediterranean diet, but when pasta is consumed, it is paired with other Mediterranean diet mainstays such as vegetables, legumes, and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).
It may also be added to soups or served with fish or shellfish. Furthermore, the servings may be less than you are used to. When combined with other healthy meals, pasta may help you get more protective nutrients into your diet.
Start eating a Mediterranean diet with these 4 simple methods.
To begin the Mediterranean diet, all you need is a well-stocked kitchen and a willingness to experiment. Here are some more suggestions for living this way:
- Plants should account for 75 percent of your plate. If preferred, the remainder of your dish may contain fish, poultry, or eggs.
- Reduce your consumption of red meat, highly processed meals, and sugary foods. This includes refined ultra-processed grains.
- Take some time to sit and enjoy your food.
- Don’t be concerned about cuisine native to the Mediterranean. By focusing on plants, Mediterranean cuisine may be adapted to fit diverse cuisines. Begin with the plant foods that your family appreciates and work your way up.