What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet does have its benefits in that it advocates eating healthy, fresh, unprocessed foods as much as possible. However, it can be expensive and time consuming to eat this way, and the plan does call for more fish than a person may like. It probably doesn't offer much in terms of weight loss, but can improve a person's risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.


An Introduction to the Mediterranean Diet

Contrary to popular belief, there is no single "Mediterranean diet," as more than 16 countries surround the Mediterranean Sea. Because there are various differences in the cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and agricultural production, the diets will vary among the countries and regions within them.
However, a common dietary pattern is seen throughout the Mediterranean areas. Some of these similarities include:
  • Large amounts of fruits and vegetables
  • Minimally processed foods
  • High consumption of bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Low to moderate amounts of dairy products, fish, and poultry
  • Little red meat is eaten
  • Eggs are consumed from zero to four times a week
  • Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts.
In general, the Mediterranean diet is touted as "a lifestyle approach to easy, healthy eating." It reflects a way of eating that is traditional in the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. It is not a diet like you might think of in the traditional sense.
Although this can be a good way for some people to lose weight and improve their health, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle, which can sound quite wonderful -- meals with friends and family, delicious foods, activities, and even wine (in moderation).
This way of healthy eating can be set up in a pyramid style, with the bottom of the pyramid being the most important part of this healthy eating plan. Your meals will be mostly a variety of foods that are closest to the base of the pyramid. So what does this pyramid look like? Let's break it down.
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