Mediterranean Diet Rates Highest

Residents of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ills.

The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control, and a diet now in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat, while high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods. The Mediterranean Diet may offer a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control. By following the Mediterranean Diet, you could also keep that weight off while avoiding chronic disease.

There isn't "a" Mediterranean diet. Greeks eat differently from Italians, who eat differently from the French and Spanish. But they share many of the same principles. Working with the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization, Oldways, a nonprofit food think tank in Boston, developed a consumer-friendly Mediterranean diet pyramid that offers guidelines on how to fill your plate – and maybe wineglass – the Mediterranean way.

Pros & Cons

Nutritionally sound
Diverse foods and flavors
Lots of grunt work
Moderately pricey

How does Mediterranean Diet work?


Do: Load up on whole grains and veggies. 

Because this is an eating pattern – not a structured diet – you're on your own to figure out how many calories you should eat to lose or maintain your weight, what you'll do to stay active and how you'll shape your Mediterranean menu. The Mediterranean diet pyramid should help get you started. The pyramid emphasizes eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, while saving sweets and red meat for special occasions. 

Top it off with a splash of red wine (if you want), remember to stay physically active and you're set.While certainly not required, a glass a day for women and two a day for men is fine if your doctor says so. Red wine has gotten a boost because it contains resveratrol, a compound that seems to add years to life – but you'd have to drink hundreds or thousands of glasses to get enough resveratrol to possibly make a difference.

What can I eat?
Buckwheat pancakes. Top a small stack with sliced bananas or a cup of blueberries, and drizzle on a couple tablespoons of light maple syrup.

How much does Mediterranean Diet cost?
The cost of the Mediterranean diet, like most aspects of the diet, depends on how you shape it. While some ingredients (olive oil, nuts, fish and fresh produce in particular) can be expensive, you can find ways to keep the tab reasonable – especially if you're replacing red meats and meals with plant-based home cooking, some research suggests. Your shopping choices matter, too. Can't spring for the $50 bottle of wine? Grab one for $15 instead. And snag whatever veggies are on sale that day, rather than the $3-a-piece artichokes.

Will Mediterranean Diet help you lose weight?
The Mediterranean diet might help you lose weight. While some people fear that eating a diet like the Mediterranean diet that is relatively rich in fats (think olive oil, olives, avocado and some cheese) will keep them fat, more and more research is suggesting the opposite is true. Of course, it depends on which aspects you adopt and how it compares to your current diet. 

If, for instance, you build a "calorie deficit" into your plan – eating fewer calories than your daily recommended max or burning off extra by exercising – you should shed some pounds. How quickly and whether you keep them off is up to you. Researchers concluded that following a Mediterranean diet is associated with lower levels of weight gain and less increase in waist circumference. But they also report the research has limitations and that more intervention studies are needed to confirm their findings.

In 2019, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal republished an updated analysis of data from Predimed – a five-year trial including 5,859 adults (1,588 participants were omitted when the study was retracted and republished in 2017) with Type 2 diabetes or at risk for cardiovascular disease who were assigned either a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, the same diet supplemented with nuts or a control diet. Though the group with olive oil didn’t experience a statistically different outcome, folks following the Mediterranean diet with nuts saw a difference in waistline over a five-year period.

A 2010 study in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism assigned 259 overweight diabetics to one of three diets: a low-carb Mediterranean diet, a traditional Mediterranean diet or a diet based on recommendations from the American Diabetes Association. All groups were told to exercise 30 to 45 minutes at least three times per week. After a year, all groups lost weight; the traditional group lost an average of about 16 pounds while the ADA group dropped 17 pounds and the low-carb group lost 22 pounds.

A 2008 analysis of 21 studies in the journal Obesity Reviews concluded the jury is still out on whether following the Mediterranean diet will lead to weight loss or a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese.

How easy is Mediterranean Diet to follow?
The Mediterranean Diet is ranked   #1 in Easiest Diets to Follow. Because Mediterranean diets don't ban entire food groups, you shouldn't have trouble complying long term.The Mediterranean diet can be convenient. When you want to cook, there's a recipe and complementary wine that'll transport you across the Atlantic. Oldways' consumer-friendly tips will make meal planning and prepping easier. And you can eat out, as long as you bring someone along to share the hefty entrees.

Oldways offers numerous Mediterranean recipes, including this guide featuring meals that all cost $2 or less a serving. Otherwise, a simple Google search will turn up lots of healthy Mediterranean meal ideas. 

Want more inspiration? 
Oldways recommends the "4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan."If you eat out while following the Mediterranean diet, embrace the diet's affinity for sharing by ordering one entree for the two of you. And be sure to start with a house salad or order extra veggies a la carte to get your fill.

10 Ways to Stay on Track With Your Weight-Loss Goals When Life Goes Crazy
You may save time on the Mediterranean diet by cooking and storing meals ahead of time; otherwise, you'll have to hire somebody to plan, shop for and prepare your meals, if your time is more valuable than your wallet. Hunger shouldn't be a problem on this diet; fiber and healthy fats are filling, and you'll be eating lots of fiber-packed produce and whole grains, and cooking with satiating fats like olive oil. Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you've had enough.You're making everything, so if something doesn't taste good, you know who to blame. 

How much should you exercise on Mediterranean Diet?
Exercise is required on the Mediterranean diet – but it doesn't have to feel like exercise.Walking, often a central part of a Mediterranean lifestyle, is a good place to start, but add whatever you like into the mix – be it Jazzercise, gardening or Pilates. Do anything you can stick with. Adults are generally encouraged to get at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity activity each week, along with a couple days of muscle-strengthening activities. 

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