Mediterranean Diet 101

Are you looking for a healthy and delicious way of eating? Look no further than the Mediterranean diet! Based on the traditional foods and flavors of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, the Mediterranean diet has been touted as one of the healthiest diets in the world. In this article, we will explore the history, benefits, and how-to’s of the Mediterranean diet. 

History of the Mediterranean diet:

The Mediterranean diet has been around for thousands of years. It is a way of eating that is based on the traditional foods and flavors of the Mediterranean region, including Greece, Italy, Spain, and Morocco. In the 1950s, an American scientist named Ancel Keys studied the diet and found that people who followed it had lower rates of heart disease compared to people in other parts of the world. Since then, the Mediterranean diet has gained popularity in the United States and Europe as a way of promoting good health. 

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet:

There are many benefits to following the Mediterranean diet. Here are some of the key benefits: 

  1. Reduced risk of heart disease: The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and fish. These fats have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation and improving cholesterol levels. 
  2. Improved brain function: The Mediterranean diet is also associated with improved brain function. This is likely due to the high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that support brain health. Multiple studies have found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with improved memory, decrease risk of dementia and cognitive impairment as well as reductions in several risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. 
  3. Lower risk of cancer: The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber and antioxidants. This has been shown to lower the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon and breast cancer. 
  4. Prevent diabetes and control blood sugar: The Mediterranean diet encourages a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats. As such, following this eating pattern may help stabilize blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes. Lastly, multiple studies have also shown that the Mediterranean diet can decrease insulin resistance, reduce fasting blood sugar levels, and improve levels of hemoglobin A1C, a marker used to measure long-term blood sugar control.  
  5. Weight loss: The Mediterranean diet is not a strict calorie-restricted diet, but it is a whole food-based diet that is rich in nutrients. This has been shown to promote weight loss and weight management. 
  6. Improved gut health: The Mediterranean diet is also good for your gut health. The high fiber content of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthy digestive system. 

How to follow the Mediterranean diet:

Following the Mediterranean diet is relatively easy. Here are some tips for getting started: 

  1. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables. Try to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. 
  2. Choose whole grains: Whole grains are a key component of the Mediterranean diet. Choose whole-grain bread, pasta, and rice instead of refined grains. 
  3. Eat lean protein: The Mediterranean diet is not a vegetarian diet, but it is low in red meat. Choose lean protein sources such as fish, chicken, duck, turkey, and beans. 
  4. Use healthy fats: The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats such avocados, extra virgin olive oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Use these fats in place of butter and other unhealthy fats. 
  5. Enjoy dairy in moderation: The Mediterranean diet includes dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, but in moderation. 

Some other important components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  1. Herbs and spices: The Mediterranean diet uses herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, mint, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, rosemary, and garlic to add flavor to dishes instead of salt. 


2. Red wine in moderation: Red wine is a common beverage in Mediterranean countries and is often consumed with meals. However, it should only be consumed in moderation. 


3. Nuts and seeds: The Mediterranean diet includes nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, and peanut butter. These are a great source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. 


4. Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas 


5. Eggs: chicken, quail, and duck eggs 


6. Seafood: Seafood is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health. 


7. Beverages: Water should be your go-to beverage on a Mediterranean diet. Coffee and tea are also healthy beverage choices on the Mediterranean diet. It’s best to limit sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda or sweet tea, which are very high in added sugar. Fruit juice is okay if taken in moderation, but choose whole fruits to get the benefit of fiber. 


8. Socialization: In addition to the food, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes the importance of socializing and enjoying meals with family and friends. 



Foods to limit in a Mediterranean diet:

You should limit these processed foods and ingredients when following the Mediterranean diet: 


1. Added sugar: added sugar is found in many foods but especially high in soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar, syrup, and baked goods 

 2. Refined grains: white bread, pasta, tortillas, chips, crackers 


3. Trans fats: found in margarine, fried foods, and other processed foods 


4. Refined oils: soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil 


5. Processed meat: processed sausages, hot dogs, deli meats, beef jerky 


6. Highly processed foods: fast food, convenience meals, microwave popcorn, granola bars 


The Mediterranean diet is a healthy and delicious way of eating that has been around for thousands of years. It is rich in whole foods, healthy fats, and nutrients that support good health. Following the Mediterranean diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease, improve brain function, lower the risk of cancer, and promote weight loss. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can easily incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your daily life and reap the many benefits it has to offer. 


The Mediterranean diet is more than just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It encourages people to slow down, enjoy their meals, and savor the flavors of fresh, whole foods.  

So, if you’re looking for a healthy and sustainable way of eating, consider trying the Mediterranean diet. Start by incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein into your meals. And remember to enjoy your food and socialize with family and friends. Your body and taste buds will thank you! 

About The Author

Dr. Hannah is a highly-skilled and compassionate physician who completed her medical degree at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 2014. She passed the Physician Licensure Exam in 2015, and has since gained experience working in various hospitals and clinics throughout Metro Manila. For three years, she served as a physician on duty at a dialysis institute, caring for patients with chronic lifestyle diseases. 


As a primary care physician, Dr. Hannah is dedicated to providing patient-centered care that takes into account the whole person, not just their illness. She believes in empowering her patients to take an active role in their healthcare, and believes that this type of doctor-patient relationship is key to achieving optimal health. 

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