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What Exactly is the Mediterranean Diet?

US News and World Report identified the Mediterranean diet as the #1 Best Overall Diet for 2018 (tied with the DASH diet). The Mediterranean diet ranked #2 in 2017. Learn more about what this diet entails.

What Exactly is the Mediterranean Diet?

US News and World Report identified the Mediterranean diet as the #1 Best Overall Diet for 2018 (tied with the DASH diet) and it was ranked #2 in 2017. The word "diet" in "Mediterranean diet" is not used as a verb meaning "to restrict" what you eat, but rather is used as a noun to describe "what you eat". This diet follows a healthy way of eating that has been practiced for centuries in Mediterranean countries. It's also evidence-based, so it's been the subject of many scholarly studies that have found the Mediterranean diet to have positive health benefits.

The Mediterranean diet promotes good health in the following ways:

  • Supports achieving a healthy weight
  • Encourages eating a variety of foods which provide needed nutrients
  • Emphasizes lean protein, healthy fats and fiber sources
  • Helps you feel satisfied after eating
  • Helps prevent chronic diseases like diabetes

What kind of foods are included in the Mediterranean diet?

  • All vegetables
  • Minimally processed grains (including "carbs") like barley, bulgur, faro, millet, oats, polenta (whole grain corn), brown rice, wheatberries, etc.
  • Beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds: these provide protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals
  • Lean protein souces in small to moderate portions, with an emphasis on high fat fish (tune, salmon, sardines, herring, etc.), other fish and shellfish. Poultry, lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb, goat, etc. are also included. These should be prepared simply and not fried.
  • Whole, fresh fruit
  • Eggs in moderation
  • Cheese in small amounts (goat, parmesan, reggiano, pecorino, etc.) and yogurt (low-fat versions encouraged)
  • Olive oil in small to moderate amouts for cooking, flavoring, etc.
  • Herbs and spices, like mint, basil, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, cumin, pepper, marjoram, etc.
  • Wine in moderation: up to 5 oz. for women and 10 oz. for men
  • Water: about 60 oz. for women and 80 oz. for men, individualized as neeeded
  • Sweets in small amounts, occasionally 


How much of these foods should I eat? 

An important part of the Mediterranean Diet is moderation. It's important to exercise portion control. You can use the "Plate" method as a guide: using a 9-inch plate, cover 1/2 of it with non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 with grains or a starchy vegetable, and 1/4 with lean protein. Fruit and yogurt can be used for breakfast, snacks or desserts. One of the major benefits of the Mediterranean diet is that people find it satisfying due to the balance and variety of the foods eaten.

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