While fad diets come and go, the Mediterranean diet has had remarkable staying power. The diet dates to the 1960s, when people started to notice that residents of Mediterranean countries had better heart health and lived longer. In places like Greece, Italy and Crete, deaths by heart attack were rarer, and scientists began to study what elements of their lifestyle might be preserving their health and prolonging their lives. What they found was the benefits of the Mediterranean diet go far beyond decreasing the risk of heart disease. Here’s how the Mediterranean diet can help you.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, combined with healthy fats (principally olive oil) which are eaten daily. Healthy high-protein foods like fish, poultry, beans and eggs are eaten weekly, and dairy products can be consumed in moderation. Red meat, which has been linked to heart disease, cancer and other health risks when consumed frequently, is rarely eaten in the Mediterranean diet.
Compared to many fad diets, the rules of the Mediterranean diet are easy to follow and stick with. Nothing is categorically forbidden — it’s more about having the right proportions of various healthy foods, and reducing your consumption of less healthy ones.
Basic Mediterranean Diet Rules
Because the diet is based on the traditional eating habits of the region, Mediterranean diet rules are not standardized. The basic idea is to get most of your calories from legumes, fruits, vegetables and healthy starches (in roughly equal quantities), supplement your diet with fish and seafood, and replace fats like butter with olive oil. We’ve included portions to help you plan your diet, but there’s definitely room to tweak your meal plans to suit your preferences.
- Staples: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and olive oil are the mainstays of your diet, along with whole grains (e.g. cooked barley or whole grain bread), potatoes and other starchy natural foods.
Recommendations for how much fruit, veggies, legumes and starches to eat vary. The Cleveland Clinic recommends 3 servings each of fruits, vegetables and legumes per day, and 3-6 servings of starchy vegetables. A serving of veggies is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw. Servings of legumes, fruit and starch are ½ a cup. Eat 1-4 tablespoons of olive oil per day with your meals.
- Fish and Seafood: Mediterranean diet followers should eat fish or seafood at least twice per week. The Cleveland Clinic recommends eating 3 servings per week, while other sources do not put restrictions on fish. Oily fish like sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon are your best options, because they contain healthy fats.
- Poultry, eggs and dairy: Eat these foods up to 3 times a week. Having an egg and some yogurt, or poultry and cheese at the same time is fine, as long as you’re consuming in moderation. If you’re looking for stricter guidelines, use 3 ounces of meat, an egg or half a cup of yogurt or cheese as a serving.
- Red Meat: You should eat this rarely. Try to limit yourself to one 3 ounce portion per week.
- Processed foods and refined sugar: Don’t make these a regular part of your diet. It’s fine to have cake and ice cream on your birthday, or enjoy white bread or chips as a special treat now and then, but the less often you eat these foods, the better. You should also avoid butter as much as possible. Replace white toast and butter with whole grain bread and olive oil.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Olive Oil: a Healthy Fat
Olive oil is typically eaten at every meal in the Mediterranean diet, and is a major factor in its health benefits. The oil contains healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that fight inflammation, reducing the risk of heart disease, other cardiovascular illnesses and inflammatory diseases. Additionally using olive oil instead of butter at the table reduces saturated fat intake in the diet, reducing the risks of cardiac events.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Scientists have accumulated decades of evidence that Mediterranean diets lower the risk of heart disease. In one study of over 7,000 people at high risk of heart disease, people eating two versions of the Mediterranean diet — one supplemented with olive oil, and the other, with nuts — both showed a lower risk of heart disease than those assigned to a controlled diet.
Managing Type II Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is good for managing Type II diabetes, as well as reducing the risk of developing the disease. As an article in Diabetes Spectrum put it, “essentially, the Mediterranean diet, by design, affects blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol management, making it an intriguing choice for diabetes clinicians and their patients.”
Lower Risk of Stroke for Women
The Mediterranean diet appears to lower the risk of stroke for women, according to a 2018 study. The study, which followed participants for 17 years, found that women who followed the diet closely had a 22 percent lower risk of stroke. Men had up to a 6 percent lower risk as well, but that reduction in risk was not considered “statistically significant” — i.e. it may be true that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of stroke for men, but the study wasn’t able to show a strong enough connection between the diet and reducing men’s stroke risk to prove it.
Sustainable Weight Loss
If you’re looking to shed weight fast, a basic Mediterranean diet might not be the best choice. However, combined with calorie restriction, it can be quite effective. In one two-year clinical trial, participants were assigned one of three different diets, with a calorie limit of 1,500 calories per day for women, and 1.800 for men. The Mediterranean diet group lost an average of 9.7 pounds — more than those assigned a low fat diet (6.4 pounds), but slightly less than those on a low-carbohydrate plan (10.3 pounds).
And because the Mediterranean diet is healthy, delicious and not excessively restrictive, many people will find it easier to stick with once they reach their target weight than a low carbohydrate diet.
May Improve Brain Power
While the effect of the Mediterranean diet on brain function is still being studied, there’s evidence that it may help prevent cognitive decline as you age. In one meta-study examining 32 studies of the Mediterranean diet and cognition, the majority showed the diet “was associated with improved cognitive function, a decreased risk of cognitive impairment or decreased risk of dementia, or [Alzheimer’s disease.]
The authors caution that most of the studies they surveyed show correlation rather than causation. In other words, people on the Mediterranean diet showed better cognitive health, but the study didn’t prove that the diet caused those cognitive health benefits. However, adding up all the evidence, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet is a good bet for your mind and body!
Products for Whole Body Health
Nuts and seeds are a healthy supplement to the Mediterranean diet, and hemp seeds are some of the healthiest. They’re packed with Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids, Vitamin E, protein, fiber and trace minerals — and on top of that, they’re delicious. These minimally processed hemp seeds are shelled without using heat, to preserve all their natural flavor and health benefits.
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The Mediterranean diet allows fruits and vegetables, but it’s not big on traditional desserts. This mint CBD vape isn’t just a great way to add CBD to your natural health regimen — it also makes for a great after dinner treat that won’t break the rules of your diet. The vape includes 250 mg of CBD, along with a range of complementary cannabinoids to enhance the effectiveness of the product.
This Stone Fruit CBD pen has all the benefits of the Mint pen, but with a natural fruit flavor. The vaporizer uses plant-derived flavorings for a tangy apricot taste, with hints of cherry and peach.