The Mediterranean diet may help lower blood pressure levels, your risk for type 2 diabetes, improve brain health, and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is inspired by the foods that people have traditionally eaten in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (1).
This diet was first introduced in the 1960’s from observation in Greece and Southern Italy, as being low in saturated fat and high in vegetable oils.
Since then, it has been found that people in countries that favor the Mediterranean diet have lower risks of coronary heart disease, a disease strongly associated with inflammation, as compared to northern Europe and the United States (2).
A major selling point for The Mediterranean Diet is that it is not restrictive in its requirements, rather it emphasizes adding in whole foods and healthy fats and avoiding processed foods and sugars (1).
There are many health benefits to switching to the Mediterranean diet and you don’t have to live in the Mediterranean Basin to incorporate this style into your own diet.
What are the benefits?
You have probably heard of the Mediterranean diet for its ability to promote heart health. Studies have shown that this diet may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, slow the progression of plaque accumulation in the arteries, and help lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels (3-6).
However, the Mediterranean diet may also lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes and improve brain health (7). Several studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet may protect against dementia and also may improve cognitive function, although more research is needed to determine if there is a cause-effect relationship (8-10).
As you can see, there are many health benefits to switching to the Mediterranean diet, and the good news is you don’t have to live in the Mediterranean Basin to incorporate the Mediterranean style into your own diet.
How to follow the Mediterranean Diet
As mentioned above, the Mediterranean diet does not have strict guidelines on what is included in it, rather it provides an outline of which food groups you should eat more of, and which you should eat less of.
The traditional Mediterranean diet incorporates a high consumption of monounsaturated fats, plant proteins, whole grains, and fish; moderate amounts of alcohol, and limited amounts of red meat, refined grains, and sweets (6).
Mediterranean Diet Guidelines
*This is not an exhaustive list, it is provided as an example of some foods that are included in the Mediterranean Diet
References 1. Mediterranean Diet 101: Meal Plan, Foods List, and Tips [Internet]. Healthline. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 7]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan 2.Davis C, Bryan J, Hodgson J, Murphy K. Definition of the Mediterranean Diet; A Literature Review. Nutrients. 2015 Nov;7(11):9139–53. 3.De Pergola G, D’Alessandro A. Influence of Mediterranean Diet on Blood Pressure. Nutrients. 2018 Nov;10(11):1700. 4.Casas R, Urpi-Sardà M, Sacanella E, Arranz S, Corella D, Castañer O, et al. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of the Mediterranean Diet in the Early and Late Stages of Atheroma Plaque Development. Mediators Inflamm. 2017 Apr 18;2017:e3674390. 5.Tsivgoulis G, Psaltopoulou T, Wadley VG, Alexandrov AV, Howard G, Unverzagt FW, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and Prediction of Incident Stroke. Stroke. 2015 Mar;46(3):780–5. 6.Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Mantzoros CS, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Mediterranean Diet and Incidence of and Mortality From Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke in Women. Circulation. 2009 Mar 3;119(8):1093–100. 7.Martín-Peláez S, Fito M, Castaner O. Mediterranean Diet Effects on Type 2 Diabetes Prevention, Disease Progression, and Related Mechanisms. A Review. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 27;12(8):2236. 8.Petersson SD, Philippou E. Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function, and Dementia: A Systematic Review of the Evidence123. Adv Nutr. 2016 Sep 7;7(5):889–904. 9.Ballarini T, Melo van Lent D, Brunner J, Schröder A, Wolfsgruber S, Altenstein S, et al. Mediterranean Diet, Alzheimer Disease Biomarkers and Brain Atrophy in Old Age. Neurology. 2021 May 5;10.1212/WNL.0000000000012067. 10.Loughrey DG, Lavecchia S, Brennan S, Lawlor BA, Kelly ME. The Impact of the Mediterranean Diet on the Cognitive Functioning of Healthy Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Adv Nutr Bethesda Md. 2017 Jul;8(4):571–86. Sources for Dietary Guidelines: Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. What Should I Eat? [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2012 [cited 2023 Mar 6]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/ The Mediterranean diet [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2022 Oct 10]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/mediterranean-diet/sls-20077104