Mediterranean Diet 101: Meal Plan, Foods List, and Tips

Rich in flavorful ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats, the Mediterranean diet is peer parts delightful and alimentary. It ’ randomness besides associated with a assortment of benefits and may help support brain affair, promote affection health, regulate blood boodle levels, and more. Although there are no concrete rules for how to follow the Mediterranean diet, there are many general guidelines you can follow to incorporate the principles of the diet into your casual everyday.

This article takes a closer look at what the Mediterranean diet is, how to follow it, and how it can affect your health .mediterranean diet salad with fish, bread and lemons on the side contribution on Pinterest

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. Researchers noted that these people were exceptionally healthy and had a moo risk of many chronic conditions ( 1 ). Although there are no hard-and-fast rules or regulations for the diet, it typically encourages fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats. Processed foods, added sugar, and refined grains should be restricted ( 2 ). numerous studies have immediately shown that the Mediterranean diet can promote weight passing and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, character 2 diabetes, and premature death ( 3 ). For this cause, the Mediterranean diet is often recommend for those looking to improve their health and protect against chronic disease.

Potential benefits

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a long list of health benefits .

Promotes heart health

The Mediterranean diet has been studied extensively for its ability to promote center health. In fact, research shows that the Mediterranean diet may flush be linked to a lower gamble of heart disease and stroke ( 4 ). One report compared the effects of the Mediterranean diet and a low fat diet and reported that the Mediterranean diet was more effective at slowing the progress of brass buildup in the arteries, which is a major risk factor for heart disease ( 5 ). other research shows that the Mediterranean diet could besides help lower levels of diastolic and systolic blood coerce to support center health ( 6 ) .

Supports healthy blood sugar levels

The Mediterranean diet encourages a assortment of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats. As such, following this eating blueprint may help stabilize blood carbohydrate levels and protect against type 2 diabetes ( 7 ). interestingly, multiple studies have found that the Mediterranean diet can reduce fasting lineage sugar levels and improve levels of hemoglobin A1C, a marker used to measure long-run blood boodle control ( 8 ). The Mediterranean diet has besides been shown to decrease insulin resistance, a condition that impairs the body ’ s ability to use insulin to regulate blood boodle levels effectively ( 9, 10 ) .

Protects brain function

respective studies show that the Mediterranean diet could be beneficial for brain health and may even protect against cognitive worsen as you get older. For case, one study including 512 people found that greater adhesiveness to the Mediterranean diet was associated with better memory and reductions in respective risk factors for Alzheimer ’ s disease ( 11 ). other research has found that the Mediterranean diet may be tied to a lower risk of dementia, cognitive damage, and Alzheimer ’ sulfur disease ( 12 ). What ’ s more, one large review besides showed that following the Mediterranean diet was linked to improvements in cognitive function, memory, attention, and processing speed in healthy older adults ( 13 ).

Foods to eat

precisely which foods belong to the Mediterranean diet is controversial, partially because there ’ s variation between countries. The diet examined by most studies is high in goodly plant foods and relatively humble in animal products and meat. however, eating fish and seafood is recommended at least doubly a workweek. The Mediterranean life style besides involves regular physical activeness, sharing meals with early people, and minimizing stress levels. You can include a mix of fresh, frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables, but check package labels for add carbohydrate and sodium. ideally, you should base your diet on these healthy Mediterranean foods :

  • Vegetables: tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters: almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, peanut butter
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas
  • Whole grains: oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat bread and pasta
  • Fish and seafood: salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels
  • Poultry: chicken, duck, turkey
  • Eggs: chicken, quail, and duck eggs
  • Dairy: cheese, yogurt, milk
  • Herbs and spices: garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper
  • Healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, and avocado oil

Foods to limit

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

  • Added sugar: added sugar is found in many foods but especially high in soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar, syrup, and baked goods
  • Refined grains: white bread, pasta, tortillas, chips, crackers
  • Trans fats: found in margarine, fried foods, and other processed foods
  • Refined oils: soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil
  • Processed meat: processed sausages, hot dogs, deli meats, beef jerky
  • Highly processed foods: fast food, convenience meals, microwave popcorn, granola bars

Beverages

Water should be your go-to beverage on a Mediterranean diet. This diet besides includes chasten amounts of red wine — around one glass per day. however, this is wholly optional, and wine should be avoided by some people including, anyone who is pregnant, has difficulty drink in in moderation, or is taking certain medications that may interact with alcohol. coffee bean and tea are besides healthy beverage choices on the Mediterranean diet. Be mindful of adding lots of add sugar or cream. You ’ ll want to limit sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodium carbonate or gratifying tea, which are very high in total sugar. Fruit juice would be o to include in moderation, but you ’ re better off choosing whole fruits to get the profit of fiber.

Sample menu

Below is a sample menu for 1 week of meals on the Mediterranean diet. Feel free to adjust the portions and food choices based on your own needs and preferences, and add snacks as desired .

Monday

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with strawberries and chia seeds
  • Lunch: a whole grain sandwich with hummus and vegetables
  • Dinner: a tuna salad with greens and olive oil, as well as a fruit salad

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with blueberries
  • Lunch: caprese zucchini noodles with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar
  • Dinner: a salad with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, farro, grilled chicken, and feta cheese

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: an omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions
  • Lunch: a whole grain sandwich with cheese and fresh vegetables
  • Dinner: Mediterranean lasagna

Thursday

  • Breakfast: yogurt with sliced fruit and nuts
  • Lunch: a quinoa salad with chickpeas
  • Dinner: broiled salmon with brown rice and vegetables

Friday

  • Breakfast: eggs and sautéed vegetables with whole wheat toast
  • Lunch: stuffed zucchini boats with pesto, turkey sausage, tomatoes, bell peppers, and cheese
  • Dinner: grilled lamb with salad and baked potato

Saturday

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, nuts, and apple slices
  • Lunch: a whole grain sandwich with vegetables
  • Dinner: Mediterranean pizza made with whole wheat pita bread and topped with cheese, vegetables, and olives

Sunday

  • Breakfast: an omelet with veggies and olives
  • Lunch: falafel bowl with feta, onions, tomatoes, hummus, and rice
  • Dinner: grilled chicken with vegetables, sweet potato fries, and fresh fruit

There ’ south normally no motivation to count calories or path macronutrients ( protein, adipose tissue, and carbs ) on the Mediterranean diet. For more ideas, check out this tilt of 21 healthy Mediterranean recipes .

Healthy snacks

If you start feeling athirst between meals, there are plenty of healthy bite options you can enjoy on the Mediterranean diet. here are a few ideas to help you get started :

  • a handful of nuts
  • a piece of fruit
  • baby carrots with hummus
  • mixed berries
  • grapes
  • Greek yogurt
  • hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper
  • apple slices with almond butter
  • sliced bell peppers with guacamole
  • cottage cheese with fresh fruit
  • chia pudding

Eating out

many restaurant meals are desirable for the Mediterranean diet. Try to choose whole grains, vegetables, legumes, seafood, and goodly adipose tissue. It ’ south besides key to enjoy your meal and savor it with good company, so choose something that sounds good. here are a few tips to help adapt dishes when you ’ re eating out :

  1. Choose fish or seafood as your main dish.
  2. Ask the server if your food can be cooked in extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Choose whole grain bread, with olive oil instead of butter.
  4. Add vegetables to your order.

These tips for eating goodly at restaurants may besides be helpful.

Shopping list

It ’ south always a good idea to shop at the perimeter of the store, which is where the solid foods are typically found. Opt for nutrient-dense foods arsenic much as possible, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. hera are some basic Mediterranean diet items to add to your shopping list :

  • Vegetables: carrots, onions, broccoli, spinach, kale, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms
  • Frozen veggies: peas, carrots, broccoli, mixed vegetables
  • Tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, melons, peaches, pears, strawberries, blueberries
  • Grains: whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, oats
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts
  • Seeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds
  • Condiments: sea salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, oregano
  • Seafood: salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, shrimp, mussels
  • Dairy products: Greek yogurt, yogurt, milk
  • Poultry: chicken, duck, turkey
  • Eggs: chicken, quail, and duck eggs
  • Healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, avocado oil

The bottom line

Though there ’ s not one defined Mediterranean diet, this dietary pattern is by and large rich in goodly establish foods and relatively lower in animal foods, with a focus on fish and seafood. It has been associated with numerous health benefits and may help stabilize blood carbohydrate levels, promote center health, enhance brain serve, and more. Best of all, you can adapt the principles of the Mediterranean diet in a way that works for you. If you dislike salmon and sardines but hale wheat pasta and olive oil are your favorites, start building delectable, Mediterranean-inspired meals with foods you love .

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