The Mediterranean diet is not merely a diet but a lifestyle. It helps lose weight, reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer, lowers cholesterol levels, strengthens bones, improves brain activity and prevents depression.
This diet does not tell you what to eat and what not to eat. It is a lifestyle that encourages the consumption of all groups of foods, but especially those that bring the most health benefits.
Based on plants
The Mediterranean diet requires eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Vegetables in this dies should be of all kinds and colors because these groups contain various nutrients, phytochemicals and fibers. Specialists recommend avoiding coconut oil and palm oil as they contain a lot of saturated fats that increase the level of bad cholesterol. If you have decided to follow the Mediterranean diet, you should know that whole grains and fruits should be included in every meal. A snack of 100-200 calories from nuts and oleaginous vegetables is also allowed.
In the Mediterranean diet, fish and seafood are consumed at least twice a week. Cheese and yogurt are allowed daily in moderate portions; chicken and eggs are indicated to be consumed occasionally. Consumption of other types of meat and sweets is allowed, but in very small quantities. Avoid drinks with sweeteners, sugar, processed meat and cereals and refined oils.
The Pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet
The most famous Pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet is the one developed in 1993 at the Cambridge National Conference, Massachusetts. This pyramid has been widely used for years by consumers, educators and nutritionists in order to implement healthier eating habits.
Interestingly there is no food at the bottom of the pyramid. The focus is on exercise and socializing during meals.
The first step you need to take to follow the Mediterranean diet is to replace refined grains with whole grains and white rice with brown or wild rice.
What to eat and what to avoid
What to eat
The Mediterranean diet is based on a high consumption of vegetables, mostly tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, onion, carrots, Brussels sprouts and cucumbers. You may eat these in salads, vegetable soups, grilled, steamed etc.
You also need to eat lots of fruits. Choose apples, bananas, oranges, lemon, pears, strawberries, grapes, figs, melons, apricots, pineapples, etc. As you can see, fruits with higher calorie content such as bananas or grapes are also included in the list. However, try to consume these more moderately.
The Mediterranean diet also relies on beans, lentils, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pasta, whole grain bread, potatoes and or sweet potatoes. Of course, when it comes to potatoes and other foods with high calorie content, you again need to eat these in moderation.
You can choose almost any type of fish, such as salmon, sardines or tuna, as well as seafood.
You diet should include a lot of aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices such as garlic, basil, mint, oregano, cinnamon, pepper, rosemary and nutmeg. You can also eat healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado or olives. With regard to meat and animal products, you can choose from Greek yogurt, cheese, chicken, duck and turkey.
What not to eat
You have to say goodbye to sweets and sugar and to any processed foods, including white bread, margarine, soybean oil and processed meat.