The Mediterranean Diet has long been known as one of the most healthful diets. It’s consistently ranked near the top of US News’ Best Diets in categories like Best Diets Overall, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, and Best Heart-Healthy Diets. There is no one “true” Mediterranean Diet. For example, Italians eat differently than Greeks who eat differently than the French. But all these diets emphasize the same basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish, eggs, poultry, cheese and yogurt (in moderation), and of course, red wine. Red meat and sweets are consumed only as an occasional treat.
“The Mediterranean Diet,” as we know it in the United States, was developed by Oldways, a nonprofit food think tank, in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health. In response to the realization that countries along the Mediterranean have lower rates of heart disease and high LDL cholesterol levels, Oldways developed a diet for Americans that highlights the most important aspects of the various Mediterranean diets.
The Mediterranean Diet is more of an eating pattern, rather than a diet. It doesn’t explicitly provide calorie limits or recommendations. Rather, it focuses on encouraging the consumption of whole foods, and healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) — saturated fats should be limited.
In addition to being able to help with weight loss, The Mediterranean Diet has been associated with a decreased risk for heart disease, reduction in LDL cholesterol levels, and a decrease in blood pressure.
A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine studied the effectiveness of The Mediterranean Diet on weight loss in moderately obese adults. 322 subjects were assigned to one of three diets: calorie-restricted Mediterranean, calorie-restricted low fat, or non-calorie-restricted low carb. After 2 years, those on The Mediterranean Diet lost on average 9.7 pounds, those on the low fat diet lost 6.4 pounds, and those on the low carb diet lost 10.3 pounds. This review of The Mediterranean Diet demonstrates that it is a) effective for weight loss and b) an effective alternative to low fat diets for those who would rather not radically cut carbs out of their diet.
A 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed The Mediterranean Diet for its effectiveness in mitigating the risk of heart disease. They found that for individuals with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, a mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death by 30%.
In a 2014 meta analysis published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition, researchers explored the association between The Mediterranean Diet and the disk of diabetes. They reviewed the data from nine studies investigating the association between The Mediterranean Diet and improvements in health. Through their analysis, the researchers found that a greater adherence to The Mediterranean Diet is associated with a 19% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes.
No foods are forbidden on The Mediterranean Diet. In fact, it even encourages dieters to enjoy a glass of wine at night! (But, of course, there’s no need to start drinking wine if you don’t already). This makes it easier to follow in the long term than more restrictive weight loss plans. It also makes it easily adaptable to different food preferences or diet restrictions. Additionally, following The Mediterranean Diet can benefit your health in a number of different ways. It can lead to weight loss and help you reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
Because this isn’t a structured diet plan, it’s up to you to figure out how many calories you should be consuming in order to lose or maintain your weight. Additionally, one should be careful not to overindulge in healthy fats. The Mediterranean Diet encourages eating nuts, seeds, fish, and certain oils. Ounce for ounce, fats are higher in calories than protein and carbs. It’s important to take note of this if your goal is to lose weight since it’s easy for extra calories to slip in when cooking with oils
Numerous studies have reviewed The Mediterranean Diet and have proven its health benefits. Additionally, it is easily customizable and isn’t overly restrictive, making it more sustainable in the long run.
As with any diet, portion control is an important part of The Mediterranean Diet. Especially, if your goal is to lose weight. Since there isn’t a specific diet plan associated with The Mediterranean Diet, it’s up to you to determine appropriate portion sizes. MealEnders can be a useful tool for you as you adjust to eating slightly smaller portions. Eating high quality foods (like those encouraged on The Mediterranean Diet) will leave you feeling happy and satisfied after a meal, but you have to give yourself a chance to feel full. Set a MealEnder next to your plate at dinner to remind yourself to stop and pause before getting seconds. After you finish the food on your plate, enjoy a MealEnder while you wait for that happy, full, and nourished feeling to kick in.