When we hear the word “diet” we may think that it’s just another fad diet but the Mediterranean diet in fact is much more than a diet; it’s a lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet features fruit, vegetables, ﬁsh, beans, nuts and whole grains as well as other ingredients such as olive oil and wine that have been shown to promote good health.
It all started when Ancel Keys, the famous researcher and father of the Mediterranean Diet, discovered, in the 1940s, that people who ate a Mediterranean diet had very low rates of heart disease and were living longer than people in Northern Europe and the United States.
Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.
The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is ﬁlled with foods most people eat every day, like produce, yogurt, milk, cheese, and seafood. The biggest difference between the Mediterranean diet and the typical American diet is the frequency certain foods are eaten. Plant foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts – are at the core, while foods like sweets and meats are eaten less often and in smaller amounts.
Key Components of the Mediterranean diet
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Enjoying meals with family and friends
- Drinking red wine in moderation
- Getting plenty of exercise