Mediterranean Diet: Benefits, Food List, Tips and Meal Plan

Mediterranean Diet: Health Benefits, Food List, Meal Plan and Recipes

Mediterranean diet

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a manner of eating that is influenced by the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries. 

Following a Mediterranean diet essentially entails eating in the manner in which people in the Mediterranean region have traditionally eaten. 

A traditional Mediterranean diet contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s widely assumed that people who live near the Mediterranean Sea live longer and experience less cancer and cardiovascular issues than most Americans. 

You can lose weight while avoiding chronic disease if you stick to the Mediterranean diet.

What does a Mediterranean Diet Consist of?

The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil, and is considered the world’s healthiest diet. It favors lean protein sources like fish and chicken over red meat. Red wine is consumed regularly, but in moderation.

According to research, there are numerous advantages to following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern, including weight loss, improved blood glucose (sugar) control, and a lower risk of depression, to mention a few. 

Reduced inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease, has also been linked to Mediterranean eating.

The diet’s foundation is made up of plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. The main source of additional fat is olive oil. Moderate amounts of fish, seafood, dairy, and chicken are allowed. Red meat and sweets are only consumed on rare occasions. 

In comparison to a traditional Western diet, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with less dairy and meat.

History of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet was devised by physiologist Ancel Keys and his biochemist wife, Margaret Keys, according to historian Harvey Levenstein. 

The Keys traveled to Italy and Spain in 1952 to perform some quasi-experimental blood pressure, cholesterol, and nutrition surveys. 

The Mediterranean tradition provides a cuisine rich in colors, flavors, and memories that nourish the palate and spirit of individuals who live in harmony with nature. The Mediterranean diet has its origins in a region of territory deemed unique in its sort, the Mediterranean basin, which historians refer to as “the cradle of society” because the whole history of the ancient world took place inside its geographical bounds. 

The Mediterranean Diet is a generally admired nutritional strategy that has cultural, historical, social, geographical, and environmental roots. 

Although Mediterranean cuisine has a long history, different ingredients came at different times. 2,500 years ago, olives were originally crushed for olive oil. Grapes were most likely first consumed as wild harvests, but real wine-making began 6,000 years ago. 

Between 9,000 and 10,000 years ago, domesticated grains and legumes such as wheat and lentils appeared. One of the earliest resources would have been fishing, which would have been traded even in non-coastal places.

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Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

Mediterranean diet

A food pyramid based on Mediterranean dietary practices has long been linked to excellent health. This Mediterranean diet pyramid is based on food patterns common in the early 1960s in Crete, much of Greece, and southern Italy, when adult life expectancy was among the highest in the world and rates of coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and other diet-related chronic diseases were among the lowest. 

The items at the bottom of the pyramid are those that you should consume every day and include in every meal. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, legumes, nuts and seeds, and olive oil are among them. 

The foods in the next tier, such as fish and seafood, should be consumed at least twice a week. 

The following foods should be consumed in moderation. Poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and, in some situations, red wine are among them. Finally, red meat, saturated fats, and some sweets make up the tiniest percentage of the Mediterranean diet (typically reserved for special occasions). 

Physical activity and the concept of sharing meals with people are other important components of a healthy lifestyle, according to the Mediterranean diet pyramid. 

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was published just one year after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its nutritional pyramid. This is how it was split down:

  • First-tier: 6–11 carbohydrate servings (bread, pasta, rice, and cereal)
  • Second-tier: 3 to 5 vegetable servings; 2 to 4 fruit servings
  • 2 to 3 serves dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) and 2 to 3 servings of protein (meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts) is represented in the third tier
  • Top: in moderation, fats, oils, and sweets

Note:- wines are also recommended in moderation.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet

When combined with physical activity, a typical Mediterranean diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seafood, and olive oil can lower your risk of major mental and physical health problems by:

1. Defending against heart disease and stroke:- A Mediterranean diet restricts refined bread, processed foods, and red meat consumption, as well as encouraging the consumption of red wine rather than hard liquor, all of which can help avoid heart disease and stroke.

2. Maintaining your flexibility:- If you’re an older adult, the nutrients you get from a Mediterranean diet may lower your risk of muscle weakness and other indicators of frailty by 70%.

3. Lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:- The Mediterranean diet has been shown to benefit cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and overall blood vessel health, perhaps lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

4. Parkinson’s disease risk is reduced to half:- The Mediterranean diet’s high levels of antioxidants can protect cells from the destructive process of oxidative stress, lowering the risk of Parkinson’s disease by half.

5. Defending against the onset of type 2 diabetes:- A Mediterranean diet is high in fiber, which slows digestion and minimizes blood sugar swings, as well as helps you maintain a healthy weight.

How to Start a Mediterranean Diet?

Follow these steps when you’re about to start the diet. incorporate these points in your daily life for effective results.

  1. Have more fruits & veggies
  2. Opt. for whole grains
  3. Consume healthy fats
  4. Say yes to more seafood
  5. Say no to red meat
  6. Include dairy in the diet
  7. Spice up your meal
  8. Do not skip breakfast

Mediterranean Diet Food List

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes dietary practices such as having a diet that includes:

  • Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are high in plant-based foods.
  • Fish and, to a lesser extent, chicken and eggs, provide a moderate amount of lean protein.
  • A sufficient amount of wine
  • Red meat and dairy products are low in saturated fats.
  • Low in sugars and processed carbohydrates

1. Vegetables:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Collard greens
  • Swiss chard
  •  Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cucumbers
  • Green Beans
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Onions
  • Scallions
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Bell pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • Artichokes
  • Cabbage
  • Fennel
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Yams
  • Beets

2. Fruits

  • Apples
  • Avocado
  • Blackberries 
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Cantaloupe
  • Melon
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Pomegranate
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Avocados

3. Nuts:

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Pine nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

4. Whole Grains:

  • Whole oats
  • Brown rice
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Pita bread
  • Pasta
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa

5. Meat & Sea-food:

  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Cornish game hens
  • Turkey
  • Tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Cod
  • Sea bass 
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Clams
  • Octopus

6. Dairy Product and Oils:

  • Cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil

Foods to Avoid

Red meat is high in saturated fats and is therefore consumed in moderation, if not entirely avoided. By replacing red meat with leaner protein sources like white fish, lentils, and beans, you may make your diet more Mediterranean. 

Snacks, ready-meals, processed meats, candies, soft drinks, and morning cereals are all examples of ultra-processed foods, which are industrial, produced items with many additives. 

Although there is no hard and fast rule, a Mediterranean diet tries to avoid sweets and sugary foods wherever feasible, substituting fresh and dried fruits instead. 

Alcohol is a distinguishing characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, it is limited in quantity and type: 1-2 glasses of red wine per day, with meals. While moderate alcohol use is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, it can also increase the risk of other health concerns. It’s worth noting that any heart-health benefits derived from this low level of red wine intake are lost when we consume more. 

Mediterranean Diet Recipes

1. Smoky Tempeh Tostadas With Mango Cabbage Slaw

Mediterranean diet

Preparation Time: 25 min 

Serve: 3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-ounce package tempeh, cut into thin chunks
  • ¼ cup soy sauce or liquid amino
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½-1 teaspoon hot sauce (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • Oil for cooking
  • 1½ cups red cabbage, shredded
  • ¾ cup mango, diced
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely minced, plus more for topping
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Additional toppings: cilantro, avocado, salsa, lettuce

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Place the tempeh chunks in a medium bowl.
  •  Combine soy sauce, chili powder, spicy sauce, cumin, liquid smoke, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper in a small mixing dish. To combine the ingredients, whisk them together. Stir in the tempeh until it is evenly coated. Allow for a 5 to 10 minute rest period.
  • Line a baking sheet with corn tortillas. Apply a little coat of oil to the surface. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
  • Place the tempeh in a pan over medium heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden. Cook for another 3-4 minutes after flipping the chunks.
  • In a separate bowl, combine red cabbage, mango, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, agave, and pepper while the tempeh and tortillas are cooking. To blend, stir everything together. 
  • Top with slaw and any other desired toppings after scooping the tempeh onto the tortillas.

2. Mediterranean Veggie Burger

Mediterranean diet

Preparation Time: 18 min 

Serve: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 lg red leaf lettuce leaves
  • 2 grilled-vegetable soy burgers
  • 2 Tbsp goat cheese
  • 1 bottled roasted red pepper, halved
  • ½ c broccoli sprouts
  • ½ c baby spinach leaves

Instructions:

  • Place the lettuce leaves, long sides facing you, on a work surface. To smooth the center of each, lightly push with your fingers.
  • Microwave the burgers according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Each lettuce leaf should have one in the center. 1 tablespoon of cheese, ½ red pepper, and ¼ cup each of sprouts and spinach on top of each. 
  •  fold the bottom and sides of each lettuce leaf up. Serve warm.

3. Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean diet

Preparation Time: 25 min 

Serve: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cup dry quinoa
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • ½ teaspoon dry basil, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your fingers
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 15 ounces can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 package DeLallo Zesty Salad Savors

Instructions:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt added to the water when cooking the quinoa according to package guidelines. Allow cooling completely. 
  • Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, basil, and thyme in a mixing bowl. Whisk everything together until it’s smooth. 
  • Set aside after seasoning with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Combine the quinoa, arugula, garbanzo beans, and the contents of the Salad Savors package—red bell pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese—in a large serving bowl.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with basil. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow cooling before serving.

4. Mediterranean Spicy Spinach And Lentil Soup

Mediterranean diet

Preparation Time: 35 min 

Serve: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • Private Reserve Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
  • 2 tsp dried mint flakes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water, more if needed
  • 12 oz frozen cut leaf spinach (no need to thaw)
  • 1 1/2 cups small brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, heated in a large ceramic or cast iron pot Sauté the chopped onions until they are golden brown. Combine the garlic, all of the spices, dried mint, sugar, and flour in a mixing bowl. On medium-high heat, cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add the broth and water at this point. Bring the liquid to a rolling boil over high heat, then add the frozen spinach and lentils. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes, then lower to medium-low heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until lentils are fully cooked and soft. (Check the liquid levels halfway through cooking to see if you need to add a little boiled water.) 
  • Stir in the lime juice and chopped parsley once the lentils are fully cooked. Take off the heat and set aside for about 5 minutes, covered. Serve with pita bread or your favorite rustic Italian bread while it’s still hot.

1 Week Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

Monday

Breakfast: Olive crostini

Lunch: Pasta with prawns & tomatoes.

Snacks: Brussels sprouts & caramelized onions

Dinner: Fresh fruit salad with orange vinaigrette

Tuesday

Breakfast: Springtime soup

Lunch: Quinoa stuffed bell peppers

Snacks: Mediterranean veggie burger

Dinner: Tuna with white bean salad

Wednesday

Breakfast: Tomato & olive soup with basil cream

Lunch: Spicy yogurt chicken

Snacks: Quinoa tabbouleh

Dinner: Tomato –yam- turnip-olive salad

Thursday

Breakfast: Mediterranean style stuffed peppers

Lunch: Chicken salad cups

Snacks: Shrimp with feta

Dinner: Mediterranean spicy spinach and lentil soup

Friday

Breakfast: Mediterranean kale , cannellini and farro stew

Lunch: Mediterranean chicken thighs

Snacks: Lemon turkey cutlets

Dinner: Italian skillet chicken with tomatoes & mushrooms

Saturday

Breakfast: Shrimp, white bean, cherry salad

Lunch: Mediterranean pasta salad

Snacks: Easy one pan Mediterranean cod

Dinner: Greek chicken & potato dinner

Sunday

Breakfast: Veggie Mediterranean quiche

Lunch: Mediterranean quinoa bowls

Snacks: Smoky tempeh tostadas with mango cabbage slaw

Dinner: Phyllo meat pie

Conclusion

The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diets available. In addition to assisting with weight loss, research shows that this adaptable and long-term eating plan can improve your heart and brain in ways that a traditional Western diet cannot.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes traditional fruits and vegetables, but it differs from many other diet plans in that it includes a considerable amount of olive oil and a moderate amount of wine. Vegetables, fruits, healthful grains, and lean proteins are the four key groups to concentrate on. 

Depending on your current eating habits, the Mediterranean diet may be a healthier alternative that might help you lose weight.

You don’t have to reside in Greece or Italy to reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, as it turns out. It’s no wonder that this eating plan has grown so popular because it’s flexible, simple to follow and validated by research.

 

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