Mediterranean Diet: Scientific Facts About The Benefits, Menus, Doctor's Opinion

Table of contents:

Mediterranean Diet: Scientific Facts About The Benefits, Menus, Doctor's Opinion
Mediterranean Diet: Scientific Facts About The Benefits, Menus, Doctor's Opinion

Video: Mediterranean Diet: Scientific Facts About The Benefits, Menus, Doctor's Opinion

Video: Mediterranean Diet: Scientific Facts About The Benefits, Menus, Doctor's Opinion
Video: Vegan Diet or Mediterranean Diet: Which Is Healthier? 2023, April
  • The essence of the diet
  • What can
  • What is not allowed
  • Menu for the week
  • Efficiency
  • Doctor's review

The article was checked and commented on by Alexandra Razarenova - nutritionist, nutritionist, therapist, member of the Russian Union of Nutritionists, Nutritionists and Food Industry Specialists

How the Mediterranean diet works

The popularity of the Mediterranean diet is easy to explain. Scientists have found that due to the peculiarities of the diet, residents of Mediterranean countries rarely suffer from heart disease and obesity [1], [2]. Although in the usual sense, this is not really a diet, but rather a set of healthy eating habits that are characteristic of Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Moroccans. There are no strict restrictions, rules and numbers. It is aimed primarily at teaching the body to a balanced diet and improving health.

At the same time, the kilograms go off very slowly and smoothly: to see the first results, it may take about six months. But there are pluses here. You do not have to starve, which means that the body will not experience stress. This approach allows you to maintain good shape for a long time and prevent weight gain in the future. Another advantage of this diet is that you can follow it all the time, since it allows you to eat tasty, healthy and varied.

Photo: Taylor Kiser / Pexels
Photo: Taylor Kiser / Pexels

© Taylor Kiser / Pexels

Foods to include in the diet

The Mediterranean diet menu is rich in plant foods, lean fish and seafood. It is balanced and contains all the substances important for the body, therefore it is suitable for almost everyone. You should not try such a diet only in case of allergies or individual intolerance to certain foods. Nice bonus: it is allowed to change the menu depending on your individual preferences.

  • Focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. They should form the basis of the diet. That being said, try to prioritize the least processed foods, ideally organic.
  • Save red meat and sausages for special occasions. They can be included in the menu no more than twice a month. You shouldn't get carried away with chicken and eggs either. But in fish and seafood, you can not limit yourself. With such a diet, it is recommended to eat them every day or at least twice a week.
  • Eat more dairy and fermented milk products that are low in fat. The main thing is that they do not have sugar, flavors and fillers.
  • Drink plenty of clean, still water. Lovers of tea and coffee can indulge in their usual pleasure, but do not add sugar to drinks. In addition, if you wish, you can drink one glass of dry red wine a day.
  • The Mediterranean diet has three main meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you feel hungry in between, you can grab a handful of nuts, berries, Greek yogurt, or fruit.
  • With such a diet, you do not need to count calories and monitor the ratio of macronutrients entering the body - proteins, fats, carbohydrates. If you decide to dine in a restaurant, opt for seafood or fish. In this case, it is advisable to ask them to fry them in olive oil.
  • Do not forget about healthy sleep and physical activity - move at least 30 minutes a day. Moderate exercise will speed up the weight loss process. In addition, adherents of the Mediterranean diet pay special attention to communication with loved ones. Whenever possible, cook and sit down with your family to help lift your spirits and relieve the stress that often leads to overeating [3].

List of main products:

  • Vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, onions, potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, carrots, turnips.
  • Fruits and berries: apples, pears, bananas, oranges, tangerines, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, Walnuts, Macadamia, Hazelnuts, Cashews, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds.
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas.
  • Cereals: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole grain bread, durum wheat pasta.
  • Fish and seafood: salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, shellfish, crabs, mussels.
  • Poultry: chicken, duck, turkey.
  • Eggs: chicken, quail, duck.
  • Dairy products: cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt.
  • Herbs and spices: garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper.
  • Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocado, and avocado oil.

Some expensive products, if necessary, can be replaced with more affordable and familiar ones. So, instead of Greek yogurt, you can take regular kefir or homemade yogurt. Whole grains are replaced with buckwheat, barley and oatmeal, and trout or tuna are replaced with herring, which contains the same essential omega-3 fatty acids. White cabbage is a great alternative to broccoli, and seasonal fruits are great for figs and peaches. You can also save on olive oil. For example, unrefined sunflower oil contains more omega-6, phytosterol, and vitamin E.

This is what the food pyramid looks like, which reflects the overall ratio of foods recommended for the Mediterranean diet
This is what the food pyramid looks like, which reflects the overall ratio of foods recommended for the Mediterranean diet

This is what the food pyramid looks like, reflecting the overall ratio of foods recommended for the Mediterranean diet © Shutterstok

Foods to avoid

The Mediterranean diet has no taboos. Nevertheless, the consumption of some foods should be reduced, or even better - completely eliminated. These include white sugar, wheat flour, convenience foods, refined butter, spirits, soda, fast food, and highly processed foods (chocolate bars, snacks, sausages, sausages). Use dried herbs and spices instead of salt. It is better to give up the usual food gradually - this will help minimize stress for the body.

Weekly menu option


  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with fresh berries and granola.
  • Lunch: Lentil soup and whole grain avocado sandwich.
  • Dinner: tuna salad with beans, apple and olive oil.


  • Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins and honey.
  • Lunch: minestrone soup and seafood salad.
  • Dinner: broccoli casserole and natural yogurt.


  • Breakfast: omelet with vegetables, tomatoes and olives.
  • Lunch: baked fish and bulgur with green peas.
  • Dinner: a glass of kefir and a low-fat cottage cheese casserole.


  • Breakfast: natural yoghurt with fruits and nuts.
  • Lunch: Whole grain salmon and avocado sandwich.
  • Dinner: white cabbage stewed with chicken breast.


  • Breakfast: oatmeal with nuts and honey.
  • Lunch: brown rice with egg, onion and avocado.
  • Dinner: pasta with seafood and a glass of red wine.


  • Breakfast: two boiled eggs and fried vegetables.
  • Lunch: durum wheat spaghetti and grilled beef.
  • Dinner: Whole-grain pizza with cheese and vegetables.


  • Breakfast: steamed cheesecakes, fruit and honey.
  • Lunch: fish soup and cucumber and tomato salad.
  • Dinner: vegetable lasagna and a glass of red wine.

The efficacy and benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The main advantage of the diet is the benefits for the body. It is no coincidence that nutritionists have assigned her the status of one of the safest food systems. This is evidenced by the results of many years of research. Here are some scientifically proven facts about how the Mediterranean diet affects the body.

Photo: Brooke Lark / Pexels
Photo: Brooke Lark / Pexels

© Brooke Lark / Pexels

1. Strengthens the heart

For their study, Spanish scientists invited 7447 volunteers aged 55–80 years who have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Participants were offered three diets - a Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on nuts, and a low-fat diet. Over the next five years, specialists monitored the health of the participants.

The results showed that people who followed the Mediterranean diet had an almost one-third reduction in the risk of stroke and heart attack [4]. According to scientists, the diet helps to eliminate "bad" cholesterol from the body, as well as normalizes blood pressure and sugar levels.

2. Helps in the prevention of diabetes

The same scientists tried to find out how the Mediterranean diet affects the onset of type 2 diabetes. To do this, they assessed the condition of 418 people who did not have the disease at the beginning of the study. Among those who chose a Mediterranean diet, the likelihood of developing diabetes was 52% less than those who followed a diet low in fat [5].

3. Improves bowel function

According to a study by an international group of scientists, the Mediterranean diet has a beneficial effect on the intestinal microflora. Specialists monitored the health of 612 people aged 65–79 years from Poland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France and Italy. The subjects followed a Mediterranean diet for a year. As a result, they have slowed down the loss of bacterial diversity and increased the number of "good" bacteria and beneficial fatty acids. At the same time, the number of chemical compounds that cause inflammation and bacteria that are involved in the formation of bile acids decreased.

4. Prolongs life

Cardiologists from the University Hospital in Saint-Etienne (France) have found that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of premature death. The study involved 605 people who had suffered a heart attack six months earlier. They were also offered two food options - a low-fat diet and a Mediterranean diet. The researchers monitored the patients' health for four years. In the Mediterranean diet group, the risk of mortality from all causes was 45% lower, and from heart disease - by 70% [6].

5. Helps to lose weight

On a Mediterranean diet, you can normalize weight without counting calories. This is the conclusion reached by scientists from the Second University of Naples. The study involved 99 men and 81 women. They were divided into two groups. One was required to comply with the recommended rate of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, the other - to increase the consumption of whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, olive oil. Two years later, the scientists evaluated the result: in the group of the Mediterranean diet, weight loss was three times greater [7].

This is confirmed by the study of Canadian specialists [8]. According to him, the Mediterranean diet is no less effective than the low-carb diet. With its help, you can lose up to 10 kg per year. If you want to speed up your weight loss, calculate your calorie intake and stick to it when drawing up the menu.

Italian doctors conducted another large study involving 32,119 volunteers. For almost 12 years, all of its participants adhered to the principles of the Mediterranean diet. It turned out that long-term adherence to this diet reduces the risk of weight gain and fat accumulation in the abdominal area for the next five years after stopping the diet [9].

Photo: Alyson McPhee / Unsplash
Photo: Alyson McPhee / Unsplash

© Alyson McPhee / Unsplash

Doctor's comment


Alexandra Razarenova - nutritionist, nutritionist, therapist, member of the Russian Union of Nutritionists, Nutritionists and Food Industry Specialists

Does the Mediterranean diet have disadvantages?

The principles of the Mediterranean diet are in line with the WHO recommendations. It is rich in vegetables and fruits, the right complex carbohydrates, healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, complete protein. Restrictions are imposed only on fast carbs, fast food, convenience foods and foods rich in trans fats. Clearing the diet of such food, a person who follows the principles of the Mediterranean diet, overwhelmingly begins to lose weight. This process is not quick, but it's for the best. Rapid weight loss is detrimental to health.

Since the Mediterranean diet involves eating a lot of vegetables, fish, seafood, and high quality vegetable oils, a food basket will be more expensive. But health is not worth saving. Because balanced nutritious nutrition is the key to harmonious development.

Dry red wine is considered one of the most important components of the Mediterranean diet, which explains its benefits. Is it really? And how much wine is safe?

As a rule, no more than 150 ml of wine a day is safe for women, and no more than 200 ml for men. It is preferable that this amount is not drunk at a time, but distributed throughout the day. Drinking wine is not an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. It can and should be neglected if you have liver or heart problems, or if you cannot control your alcohol intake. Rather, wine is part of a geographic tradition.

Who shouldn't try this diet?

The Mediterranean diet is versatile and has no strict contraindications due to a balanced and varied diet. However, due to the high fat content, this type of diet should be treated with caution in those with liver or gastrointestinal tract diseases. You should consult with your doctor in advance. Naturally, it should be limited to people with allergic reactions and intolerance to the foods used in the diet.

Some doctors have recommended a Mediterranean diet for the prevention of coronavirus. Is this justified?

Taking care of your immunity is important to fight off viral infections. And the activity of the immune system directly depends on what we eat. If your diet is balanced, rich in vegetables and fruits, you eat enough fiber, do not neglect cereals and legumes, get complete protein and all essential fatty acids - it will be easier for the body to fight infections. The Mediterranean diet meets all of these requirements. Therefore, it can be used to prevent not only coronavirus, but also other viral diseases.

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