Low-down on the Mediterranean Diet

What is the Mediterranean Diet? 

The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating that is based off traditional diets from countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. This dietary pattern focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and legumes (beans, lentils).  

What is the Mediterranean Diet helpful for? 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) 

A recent study found that following the Mediterranean Diet can help those with IBD achieve symptomatic remission, improve fatigue, and increase quality of life.  

Heart health  

One of the first identified health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet studied was cardiovascular health. Many studies have found that following a Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. It can also prevent risk factors associated with heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The Mediterranean Diet is recommended by the American Heart Association as a diet that promotes heart health.  

Type 2 diabetes prevention and management 

Following the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to improve blood sugar control in those with type 2 diabetes, along with reducing risk of developing type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. Compared to other diets, the Mediterranean Diet was the most effective in improving blood lipids in those with type 2 diabetes.  

Cancer risk reduction 

This diet pattern has also been associated with lower risk of certain cancers – particularly colorectal, gastric, breast, prostate, head and neck, and liver. It may also help reduce the overall risk of death from cancer.

Brain health 

The Mediterranean Diet may also be beneficial for your brain. Some studies have found that people who follow this type of diet have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and overall reduced cognitive decline as they age.  

It may also be helpful in reducing risk of developing depression and can also be used in treatment of depression to reduce symptoms.  

How to follow the Mediterranean Diet 

It’s important to remember that the Mediterranean Diet is not meant to be followed short-term, it’s considered to be a lifestyle change to encourage health as you age. Not only can you adapt this dietary pattern to your personal preferences, but you can even follow it if you need to be on a low FODMAP diet

What to eat more of 

  • Vegetables 
  • Fruits 
  • Whole grains 
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) 
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds 
  • Fish and shellfish 
  • Olives and olive oil 

What to eat less of 

  • Refined grains such as pasta, bread, or other baked goods made from white flour 
  • Added sugar 
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages  
  • Red meat 
  • Processed meat such as hot dogs and sausage 
  • Ultra-processed foods such as frozen or boxed meals, chips, fast food, and packaged baked goods 

Foods to include occasionally 

  • Poultry 
  • Eggs 
  • Low-fat dairy 

What about wine?  

Red wine in moderation is often included in the Mediterranean Diet guidelines. If you don’t drink alcohol, it’s not recommended that you start. There’s still some debate about any benefits of drinking alcohol, even red wine. If you include red wine as part of your Mediterranean Diet, make sure to follow the recommended amounts of one 4-ounce glass a day for women and no more than two 4 ounce glasses a day for men.  

Ready to get started? 

With the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet, there are many options to help you get started on your journey! Oldways is a non-profit organization that has many resources for following traditional cultural diets, including the Mediterranean Diet. You can also check out what a sample meal plan looks like.  

Still have more questions? Reach out to your Care Team to see how you can start making small changes to shift toward following the Mediterranean Diet.