Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet: Good Food, Healthy Body!

plate with fish and vegetables

The Mediterranean Diet is not a diet to lose weight, but a lifestyle to eat healthy. It does not ban the consumption of certain foods, but instead gives alternate options that are better for the body. It involves eating delicious foods that are balanced, rich in nutrients, and fresh. Although it is slightly expensive and requires some preparation time, the benefits you may gain from eating this way overshadow those factors.

Eating these foods is just one aspect of maintaining wellness. Eating with others and staying physically active (suggested activities are on a fact sheet) are other things you can do to improve your physical, emotional, and social wellness.

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Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid (1)

food pyramid

At the top right of this page, Figure 1 shows a breakdown of the daily food consumption in a Mediterranean Diet. The bottom tier shows foods that you should eat frequently and in larger volumes, while theMediterranean Diet Food Pyramid top tier includes foods that you should eat sparingly. Here’s a list of the tiers explained starting with the top of the pyramid:

  • Meats & Sweets: Red meats, sugar, and processed food make up this group. They should be eaten less often than any other group of food. It is suggested that red meat be eaten only a few times a month.
  • Poultry, Eggs, Cheese & Yogurt: Other meats, eggs, and dairy are in this category. They should be eaten in moderate portions between daily to weekly. It is recommended to eat only 7 eggs per week including those in cooking and baking.
  • Fish & Seafood: These should be eaten often, about two times per week. These are better than having poultry or red meats because of the omega-3 fatty acids they contain.
  • Fruits, Vegetables, Grains (mostly whole), Olive Oil, Beans, Nuts, Legumes, Seeds, Herbs & Spices: This is the biggest section of the pyramid and having these in each meal is vital to follow the Mediterranean Diet.
    • Fruits, vegetables, and grains contain essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, energy, antioxidants, and fiber that the body needs to function well. Perhaps instead of white rice, you could substitute with brown rice or smaller portions of white rice. Also raw vegetables are better for you than cooked vegetables.
    • Olive oil, nuts, legumes, and seeds are a healthy choice for giving your body the necessary amount of fat while bringing taste to a dish. Using extra virgin olive oil is highly recommended.
    • Herbs and spices add delicious flavors to a dish without the need for salt or more fat.

Although not on the pyramid, it is always necessary to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. To learn more about water, please read a fact sheet. An occasional glass of wine is also allowed, if desired.

What are the health benefits of Mediterranean diet?(1)

  • It is good for your brain
    • In a study titled Physical Activity, Diet, and Risk of Alzheimer Disease (2009), people who ate the Mediterranean Diet were 48% less likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease (2)
    • Eating a Mediterranean Diet also aids brain cognition which helps the brain function better as it ages
  • And your heart
    • Eating this diet will decrease a person’s risk for heart disease by substituting mono- and polyunsaturated fats with saturated fats. You may not only reduce cholesterol, but also blood pressure.
  • Also…
    • Eating in a balanced and healthy way leads a person’s body to homeostasis, which will prevent obesity and Type II diabetes.

Where can I get more information?

Oldways
www.oldwayspt.org

(617) 421-5500

References:

(1)(2013). Mediterranean Diet & Pyramid. Retrieved from http://www.oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/mediterranean-diet-pyramid

(2)Scarmeas, N., Luchsinger, J., Schupf N., Brickman, A., & et al (2009). Physical activity, diet and risk of Alzheimer disease. JAMA, 302 (6), 627-637.