The Mediterranean diet is a great diet that can protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (1). This diet promotes eating more veggies, fruits, whole grains, pulses, and olive oil (healthy fat), some fish, and less meat. Research shows that the Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, which are associated with longevity (2). Alexandre Meybeck, the coordinator of Sustainable Food Systems Program, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said, “The Mediterranean diet is nutritious, integrated in local cultures, environmentally sustainable and it supports local economies. (3)” So, let me tell you how you can follow the Mediterranean diet. Let’s get rolling.
How The Mediterranean Diet Works
Our lifestyles have played a major role in the rise of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and other lifestyle-related diseases. The Mediterranean diet is followed mostly in southern Italy, Spain, Greece, Ikaria, Sardinia, France, Portugal, and Croatia and it has been found that obesity andrelated diseases are less predominant in these places. Researchers have found that the Mediterranean diet can promote long-term weight loss, help regulate blood pressure, and reduce blood lipid levels (4). This diet encourages you to eat more natural and wholesome foods. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are great sources of dietary fiber and help improve digestion and bowel movement, lower LDL cholesterol, and regulate blood glucose levels. You will eat lean protein and minimum amount of red meat, which makes this diet extremely heart-friendly. Yogurt and cheese are great sources of calcium, good gut bacteria, and protein. Legumes are rich in protein and dietary fiber. Nuts are loaded with protein and healthy fats that prevent inflammation-induced weight gain. You will need to eliminate all kinds of processed and artificial foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and trans fats. And most importantly, this diet emphasizes the importance of having lunch or dinner with family or friends, as they do in Mediterranean culture, which helps reduce stress and depression. Here’s the image of the Mediterranean diet pyramid that shows what and how much you are supposed to eat.
So, this is how the Mediterranean diet works. And now, let me tell you about a few basic guidelines before you start this diet.
Mediterranean Diet Basic Guidelines
- Eat plant-based food like vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
- Eat fish and poultry twice every week.
- Eat red meat 2-3 times a month.
- Use herbs and spices to make your food flavorful and tasty.
- Use olive oil instead of vegetable oil, butter, lard, margarine, etc.
- Avoid consuming processed food.
- Consume limited salt and sugar.
- Indulge in a sweet treat once a week.
- Drink wine in moderation.
- Enjoy your meal with family or friends.
- Drink adequate amount of water (3-4 liters) per day.
- Exercise regularly.
To get a better picture of what your diet should look like, I have prepared a sample Mediterranean menu. Check it out.
Mediterranean Diet Plan
|Meals||What To Eat|
|Early Morning (6:00 – 7:30 am)||1 teaspoon fenugreek soaked (overnight) in 2 cups of water|
|Breakfast (6:45 – 8:15 am)||Options:|
l Kale and celery smoothie + 1 boiled egg+4 almonds
l Vegetable quinoa + ½ grapefruit + 4 almonds
|Mid-Morning (9:30 – 10:45 am)||Options:|
l 1 bowl fruit salad/ freshly pressed fruit juice
l 1 cup fresh coconut water
|Lunch (12:30 – 1:30 pm)||Options:|
l Tuna salad/tofu salad with light dressing + 1 cup buttermilk
l Grilled fish with blanched veggies and a small cup hummus + 1 cup buttermilk
|Evening Snack (3:30 – 4:30 pm)||1 cup green tea + 1 small cup cucumber (spice up with lime juice and herbs)|
|Dinner (7:00 – 7:30 pm)||Options:|
l Kidney bean with brown rice with a side of veggies + 1 small cup yogurt
l Mushroom stuffed capsicum with whole wheat pita bread + 1 small cup yogurt
Remember, this diet plan is not carved on a rock. You can substitute the foods listed in this chart with other foods. But make sure you stick to the guidelines of this diet plan. But if you want to know exactly which foods you must eat and avoid, take a look at the Mediterranean diet foods list below.
Mediterranean Diet Foods To Eat
Veggies – Tomato,broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, spinach, swiss chard,asparagus, zucchini, bell pepper, bok choy, green chili, pumpkin, bottle gourd, snake gourd, bitter gourd, okra, eggplant, radish, turnip, beetroot, carrot, sweet potato, potato with peel, radish greens, rocket spinach, collard greens, and green beans.
Fruits – Papaya,apple, grapes, grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange, plum, pear, peach, pluot, figs, blueberry, strawberry, starfruit, green apple, watermelon, and muskmelon.
Fats & Oils – Olive oil, rice bran oil, and ghee (clarified butter).
Seeds & Nuts – Macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts.
Beverages – Coconut water, freshly pressed fruit juice and vegetable juice, buttermilk, green tea, herbal tea, and black coffee.
Herbs & Spices – Cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, black pepper, star anise, cayenne pepper, cumin powder, coriander powder, cilantro, oregano, dill, fenugreek seeds, rosemary, thyme, clove, saffron, fennel seeds, and fenugreek seeds.
Mediterranean Diet Foods To Avoid
Veggies – Potato without the peel.
Fruits – Mango and jackfruit.
Fats & Oils – Animal fat, butter, mayonnaise, ranch, canola oil, and vegetable oil.
Seeds & Nuts – Cashew nuts.
Junk Food – Deep fried chicken, wafers, crisps, doughnut, nachos, salami, sausage, pepperoni, fries, pizza, burger, etc.
Beverages – Aerated drinks, artificially sweetened drinks, packaged fruit juices, and alcohol.
When it comes to being healthy, nutrition plays an important role, and so does exercising. You need to exercise regularly to keep your muscles and cells active, strengthen your body, keep your metabolism going, build resistance to diseases, and to become fit. Here’s a sample workout plan.
Mediterranean Diet Exercise Routine
- Head tilt – 1 set of 10 reps
- Neck rotations – 1 set of 10 reps
- Shoulder rotations – 1 set of 10 reps
- Arm circles – 1 set of 10 reps
- Wrist rotations – 1 set of 10 reps
- Waist rotations – 1 set of 10 reps
- Ankle rotation – 1 set of 10 reps
- Spot jogging – 3-5 minutes
- Jumping jacks – 2 sets of 20 reps
- Side Lunges – 1 set of 15 reps
- Russian twist – 2 sets of 20 reps
- Tricep dips – 2 sets of 5 reps
- Bicep curls (5 lb weights) – 2 sets of 10 reps
- Crunches- 2 sets of 10 reps
- Lying leg circles – 1 set of 10 reps
- Horizontal kicks – 1 set of 10 reps
- Push ups – 2 sets of 10 reps
- Forward elbow plank – 20 second hold
- Side plank – 20 second hold
Feels good, doesn’t it? Initially, if you are not used to working out regularly, you may feel a little discomfort, but that will soon go away. You must take one day off from working out as your body needs rest as much as it needs to exercise.
Well, now get down to some real business – food! In the next section, find out how to prepare yummy and quick Mediterranean diet recipes at home.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
1. Easy Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
Prep Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 20 min
Total time: 40 min
Serves – 6
- 2 cups chickpea, washed, soaked, and drained
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup seeded and chopped cucumber
- ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
- ⅔ cups crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- ½ cup pitted and sliced black olive
- ½ cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 5 tablespoons lime juice
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Salt to taste
How To Prepare
- In a small bowl, mix olive oil, lime juice, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- In a large bowl, mix the chickpeas, tomato, cucumber, onion, olives, bell pepper, and crumbled feta.
- Drizzle the dressing and give it a quick toss.
- Refrigerate it for 10 minutes before eating.
2. Mediterranean Fish
Prep Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 40 min
Total time: 55 min
Serves – 2
- 4 halibut or basa fillets
- ⅔ cup chopped tomato
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup capers
- ½ cup pitted and sliced olives
- 1 tablespoon Greek seasoning
- Salt to taste
How To Prepare
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a bowl, mix tomato, onion, capers, olive, lime juice, olive oil, and salt.
- Place the basa or halibut fillets on an aluminum foil and rub the Greek seasoning on it.
- Now, spoon the tomato mix over the basa or halibut fillets.
- Take another piece of aluminium foil and seal the fish.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes.
3. Mediterranean Eggplant Parmesan
Prep Time:15 min
Cooking Time:45 min
Total time:60 min
Serves – 6
- 2 large eggplants
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 3 egg whites
- 3 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup slivered basil
- 2 ⅔ cup tomato puree
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- Salt to taste
- Cooking spray
How To Prepare
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Coat an 8 by 11 inches baking dish with cooking spray.
- Make thick slices of the eggplant.
- In a bowl, whisk egg whites and water.
- In another bowl, combine parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper.
- Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture and then coat with the breadcrumb. Shake off the extra.
- Place the breadcrumb coated eggplants on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until both sides are golden brown.
- Now, combine tomato puree and slivered basil and spread half of this sauce in the bottom of the cooking spray coated baking dish.
- Place the eggplant slice and then top it with the remaining tomato puree.
- Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
So, weren’t these pretty easy to make and super nutritious and delicious? Read on to find out some more reasons why we recommend you to follow the Mediterranean diet.
Mediterranean Diet Benefits
- Following the Mediterranean diet can help prevent and protect from coronary heart disease (5).
- This diet aids weight loss (6).
- Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s (7).
- This diet may help fight cancer (8).
- Following the Mediterranean diet helps reduce inflammation and protects from metabolic syndrome (9).
- Helps improve cognitive function (10).
- Helps to stay relaxed and stress-free.
- Helps protect against low-grade inflammatory diseases (11).
- Following the Mediterranean diet can help increase your lifespan (12).
Mediterranean Diet Side Effects
Though there are no serious side effects of this diet, but if you are not used to eating much plant-based food, you might find this diet a bit challenging initially.However, once you get used to it, it will become a part of your lifestyle and it will not bother you anymore.
Let’s take a look at these frequently asked questions.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can I eat peanut butter while on the Mediterranean diet?
If the peanut butter is 100% organic, you can consume it. However, mostly the peanut butter that is sold in supermarkets contains preservatives, which is a no-no in the Mediterranean diet. Yes, peanut butter is definitely a better option compared to butter, but make sure it does not contain any artificial flavoring, coloring, and preserving agents.
Isthe Mediterranean Diet similar to the Paleo diet?
No, Paleo diet excludes grains such as brown rice, quinoa, wheat, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc. That’s because Paleo diet is a diet that humans of Paleolithic age followed and cooking grains was not a practice at that time. Also, in the Mediterranean diet, you are required to consume legumes and grains.
Is the Mediterranean diet similar to the Ketogenic diet
No, ketogenic diet requires you to eat a lot of fat, moderate protein, and very less amount of carbs. In the Mediterranean diet, yes, you will consume a lot of olive oil, but you will also consume a lot of veggies and fruits that contain complex carbs or good carbs and a moderate amount of proteins.
To conclude, the Mediterranean diet is certainly the best diet to follow if you want to improve your health and lead a disease-free life. This diet is not a fad diet, and you have the freedom to eat anything as long as it is nutritious and unprocessed. So, consult your dietician today and try the Mediterranean diet to see yourself transform! Take care.
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