The Mediterranean diet pyramid is characterized by abundant plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, breads, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds, fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, olive oil as the principal source of fat, dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt), and fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts, zero to four eggs consumed weekly, red meat consumed in low amounts, and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals. The Mediterranean diet pyramid describes a dietary pattern that is attractive for its famous palatability as well as for its health benefits. The Mediterranean diet is most closely tied to traditional areas of olive cultivation in the Mediterranean region and has historically been associated with low rates of chronic diseases and high adult life expectancy. The relatively high intake of nuts, olive oil and moderate intake of wine, particularly red wine during meals, makes the Mediterranean diet unique.
Ancel Keys, director of the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene at the University of Minnesota, invented the Mediterranean diet. Ancel Keys launched the Seven Countries Study in 1958 to investigate diet and lifestyle for cardiovascular disease since saturated fats were a major cause of the most devastating epidemic in the industrialized world, coronary heart disease, the arterial blockages known to result in heart attacks which at the time was not yet known to be other than an inevitable consequence of aging. The Seven Countries study revealed that the Mediterranean diet as followed by the population of Crete was highly protective against heart disease demonstrating the preventability of heart attacks even though the diet derived more than 35 percent of its calories from fat. The Seven Countries study documented approximately 10-fold differences in cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality between the highest risk region (Finland), and Crete and rural Japanese populations revealed by a correlation between population average saturated fat intake and the rate of disease.
On Mediterranean diet you eat mostly plant-based foods such as nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes and healthy fats with olive oil being the main source of fat. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, sardines and tuna, are the preferred animal protein source of the Mediterranean diet. Eggs and dairy products like yogurt and cheese can also be part of the Mediterranean diet, but in moderation.
Foods high in saturated fats, like red meat and butter, sweets and sugary drinks are not allowed on the Mediterranean diet. Lean animal proteins, like chicken or turkey, are eaten to a lesser extent on the Mediterranean diet. A glass of red wine at dinner is allowed on the Mediterranean diet.
A typical Mediterranean breakfast is something small like smashed avocado on whole-grain toast with a side of fresh fruit and a low-fat Greek yogurt with honey. In Greece Paximadia, called after a Byzantine monk named Paximus, a crunchy twice-baked bread made from whole wheat, chickpea, and barley ﬂour, may be served for breakfast with marmalade or cheese and olives. Since our bodies slowly adjusts to being awake breakfast on the Mediterranean diet typically happens later in the morning. Greeks like Koulouri, a large narrow round of bread with a crispy in sesame smothered outside that is soft and fluffy inside cutted in half crosswise, spreaded with butter, honey or jam for breakfast on the go.
A typical Mediterranean lunch is a a Greek salad with bread, a vegetable or grain dish cooked with olive oil, roasted root vegetables, leafy greens, a side of hummus and a small portion of pasta or whole grain bread, with a lean protein like grilled fish. A popular street food Mediterranean lunch is a delicious pita sandwich with tzatziki sauce, typically with lamb, beef, or chicken cut in slices off a vertical rotisserie.
People eat for dinner on a Mediterranean diet for starters for example grilled vegetable kabobs with roasted soybeans, for main course salmon fried in olive oil and yellow peppers, served over brown rice and for desert Greek Orange Honey Cake with Pistachios.
When you start the Mediterranean diet your blood pressure is reduced, your blood sugar is better regulated and your blood lipids are decreased. Mediterranean foods also have an impact on gut microbiota. Bacteroidetes have an important role in gut microbiota through the production of high levels of short-chain fatty acids that exert beneficial effects regulating cardiac function. Mediterranean diet reshapes gut microbiota which leads to an increase of Bacteroides and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii bacterial species that are known for their saccharolytic activity and the ability to convert carbohydrates in short-chain fatty acids.
The Mediterranean diet contributes to increased lifespan and healthy aging due to nutrients important for brain health. Mediterranean diets are associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease and better heart health because of changes in blood sugar, inflammation and body mass index. However, for good heart health and healthy aging getting regular exercise and adequate sleep is also necessary. In conjunction with caloric restriction, the Mediterranean diet can also support weight loss.
You can lose weight with the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet has been ranked by health and nutrition experts as one of the best methods for slow and steady weight loss, because the Mediterranean diet promotes weight loss and people who have lost body weight can maintain their weight loss if they follow the Mediterranean diet closely, eating moderate portions and watching out for high-calorie foods. The Mediterranean diet should encourage a long-term change in eating habits, because those who strictly follow the Mediterranean diet have a low risk of becoming overweight or obese, and combined with a 16 hours a day eating break and some form of physical activity, the weight loss achievable with the Mediterranean diet increases.
The Mediterranean diet can improve cognition and mood, specifically attention, alertness and contentment in the short-term within the first 10 days or so. But for sustained effects in terms of heart health, increased lifespan with healthy aging and to prevent cognitive decline and certain forms of cancer people need to stick with it ideally for their whole lives.
There are no significant risks associated with following the Mediterranean diet. For the average person, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet likely far outweigh any potential negatives. Because the diet recommends minimizing or avoiding red meat, you may want to make sure that you are getting enough iron, a mineral that the body needs to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body and Vitamin B12, needed for red blood cell formation. Also since the Mediterranean diet minimizes dairy you may need to take a calcium supplement. Weight gain on the Mediterranean diet is possible when eating more than the recommended amount of fat such as in olive oil and nuts.