Mediterranean diet food pyramid: fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, fish, meat, cheese, eggs, olive oil, wine, and more.

How The Mediterranean Diet Changed The World of Nutrition (2024)

The Mediterranean diet is a comprehensive way of eating that promotes healthy living and focuses on nutritious foods. At the same time, you should reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods and red meat.

This diet has gained massive traction over the past few years. In fact, many doctors in the United States recommend this diet for their patients to lower their risk of several diseases. Fortunately, the Mediterranean region is extremely rich in food choices and cuisines. Therefore, you will find plenty of food elements to choose from.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the Mediterranean diet, including its benefits and how it compares to other diets.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is founded on foods from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy.

According to some research, people in these areas seem healthier and have a lower risk of chronic conditions than those on a standard American diet. This diet suggests that people eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. It also limits the intake of processed foods, sugars, refined grains, and alcohol. So, if you want to be healthier and avoid chronic diseases, the Mediterranean diet is a good choice.

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How does the Mediterranean diet work

The Mediterranean diet encourages people to consume unprocessed foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and olive oil. This mix provides essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and healthy fats. These macronutrients and micronutrients are all beneficial for your health.

Dairy is allowed but in smaller amounts (e.g., cheese, yogurt). As for red meat, you should limit your intake. Added sugar should be avoided. However, you can always indulge in sweets for occasional treats. Finally, stay hydrated with plenty of water and moderate red wine intake is acceptable (up to one 5-ounce glass daily for women and one to two for men).Top of Form

The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are diverse and proven by science. Below, we will list the most important benefits to expect from this diet.

Lowers cardiovascular disease risk

Studies that lasted more than 5 years compared two Mediterranean diets with a control group. It revealed a substantial 30% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events, including stroke, heart attack, and death.

Further research is required to determine whether lifestyle factors, such as physical activity and extensive social support systems, contribute to the lower incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries compared to the United States. However, current evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet is an independent protecting factor against heart disease.

Promotes weight management

Although not conclusively proven as a weight loss solution, studies have suggested that the Mediterranean diet is a viable long-term option for those who want to maintain a healthy weight. Data from individuals who adopted the diet for 5 years indicated a lower risk of obesity compared to individuals on other diets.

The main benefits that contribute to weight loss include the diet's abundant variety, which makes it less restrictive and easier to maintain. The high fiber content promotes prolonged satiety and reduces the tendency to snack. Additionally, the healthy fats in the Mediterranean diet are less likely to contribute to obesity-related heart problems.

Supports healthy blood sugar levels

The Mediterranean diet plays a role in the stabilization of blood sugar levels and the protection against type 2 diabetes.

Studies suggested potential benefits, including the reduction of fasting blood sugar levels, improvement in hemoglobin A1C levels (a marker for long-term glucose levels), and a decrease in insulin resistance.

Of course, you should not stop taking your diabetic drugs when you adopt this diet even if your blood sugar levels go back to normal. The Mediterranean diet may be more beneficial for people with pre-diabetes. An appropriate fitness program with the Mediterranean diet might be effective in preventing the progression to diabetes.

Protects brain function

Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet contributes to improved brain health and the prevention of cognitive decline as individuals age.

One study found a possible link between this diet and improved memory as well as reduced risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. A comprehensive review also associated the Mediterranean diet with improvements in cognitive function, memory, attention, and processing speed in healthy older adults.

Improves sleep quality

In a 2018 study, researchers delved into how the Mediterranean diet impacts sleep. Their findings suggested that adherence to this diet may enhance sleep quality, especially in older adults. However, these effects in younger individuals remain inconclusive.

How the Mediterranean diet compares to other diets

When we compare the Mediterranean diet to other popular diets, we notice notable similarities. Unlike many restrictive alternatives, the Mediterranean diet aligns closely with the USDA's nutrition recommendations with a few slight differences. Both advocate for the same five food groups but the Mediterranean diet provides additional guidance within these categories.

For instance, the USDA's guidelines lack specificity about preferred protein sources. In fact, it only emphasizes the inclusion of lean proteins. In contrast, the Mediterranean diet distinguishes itself by recommending that protein intake primarily comprises legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and modest amounts of poultry. At the same time, it recommends people to limit their intake of red meat.

This nuanced approach sets the Mediterranean diet apart and offers more detailed insights into protein choices for people.

Takeaway message

The Mediterranean diet is an excellent way to lose weight and optimize your health. It is less than a diet and more of a way of living, which is why it’s gaining so much popularity all over the globe.

We hope that this article managed to highlight the main benefits and downsides of the Mediterranean diet, as well as what sets it apart from other diets.

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If you have any questions about the Mediterranean diet, please feel free to share them in the comment section below. We also encourage you to check other diets that we covered on our blog.

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