Is the Mediterranean diet a healthy diet?

The traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of depression and the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease, but it is not as beneficial for the heart and blood vessels as many people think. Let's understand the intricacies.

foods for the Mediterranean diet

What is the essence of the Mediterranean diet?

This is not exactly a diet, but rather a food system that has developed in the region near the Mediterranean Sea, food culture, eating habits that are characteristic of the Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, and Moroccans. People started talking about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in the 1960s, when data appeared that mortality from cardiovascular diseases in Greece, France and Italy was noticeably lower than in the United States and Northern Europe. Many experts believed that it was a matter of differences in eating habits.

Only a few world food systems are scientifically recognized as world heritage:

  • Mediterranean Diet,
  • food on the island of Okinawa,
  • Scandinavian mode.

All these approaches are united by the absence of strict restrictions, tables and strict rules and attention to food culture and local products. Let's figure out how the diet is built near the Mediterranean Sea and whether it is possible to repeat the effect of the diet in our country.

Foods to include in your diet

Typical diet foods:

  • olive oil;
  • olives;
  • hummus;
  • fresh vegetables, berries and fruits;
  • plain yogurt and cheese;
  • garlic, onion;
  • Fish and seafood;
  • greens - thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil;
  • white bread, pasta;
  • red wine.

Foods to Avoid

Eggs and meat are severely limited on this diet. Pastries, breads and pastas are ideally made from whole grains. The best dessert is fruits, honey, nuts, and not store-bought sweets with trans fats. Avoid anything that has been transported from the other side of the world for a long time and stored in the freezer. There is no need to consume less butter, fatty dairy products, and cheeses. More fresh vegetable salads with added proteins.

Mediterranean food culture is based on certain habits associated with the lifestyle of the local residents. These habits also affect health, including mental and emotional:

  • spend a lot of time with family,
  • visit parents often,
  • give up unhealthy and complex diets,
  • respect culinary traditions,
  • cook and eat together, often outdoors,
  • use local fresh products from the market,
  • Lead an active lifestyle, walk a lot and do physical work.

Overall, the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest and most balanced in the world, and Mediterranean people are renowned for their health and long, active lives.

sterlet fillet on a Mediterranean diet

Is it possible to lose weight on this diet?

Residents of the Mediterranean region do not always maintain a slim figure, but many still believe that their diet alone guarantees weight loss. This is not true: losing weight requires physical activity. Those who want to lose extra pounds will have to reduce the amount of fat. At the same time, a diet based on food prepared at home from fresh ingredients helps control and maintain weight. Separately, scientists noted the benefits of such a diet in comparison with a low-fat diet: in the control group of studies, those who added olive oil to their diet lost the most weight.

For noticeable results it will take at least 5-6 months. But losing weight will happen comfortably and unnoticed, without suffering, hunger, sudden weight surges and setbacks, and the lost kilograms will not return.

Myths about the Mediterranean diet

Myth 1: Good for the heart

A recent review of the results of 30 studies on the effect of the Mediterranean diet on the risks of heart attack and stroke did not show outstanding results. It is impossible to say anything definite about the effect of nutrition on the cardiovascular system: in some cases it lowers blood pressure, but does not save you from stroke, in others it reduces the content of "bad" cholesterol in the blood, but only by 10%, which is insignificantlittle compared to the effect of drugs.

Myth 2: You must drink wine every day

Regular consumption of wine, especially red, is an important part of Mediterranean culture. But doctors believe that only moderate use can be beneficial. "Moderate" is about half a glass a day, and in some studies even less, up to 15 grams. And this only applies to completely healthy people without any chronic diseases. In any case, the cult of wine is one of the most controversial aspects of the popular diet, and belief in its miraculous powers could potentially do more harm than good.

Nutritionists also advise not to forget about the benefits of split meals 5-6 times a day: the Mediterranean region is more characterized by a different rhythm with a late and meager breakfast, a break for a siesta in the afternoon and a rich late dinner.

Myth 3: You must eat regional products

The great benefits of the Mediterranean diet come from foods from a specific region:

  • olive oil and seafood are rich in healthy fats,
  • avoiding sugar and a large amount of fiber in vegetables and fruits are good for the gastrointestinal tract,
  • Whole grains have an anti-inflammatory effect and keep your energy levels high all day long.

Unfortunately, we live far away and receive all the same products in a far from original form, damaged during transportation, processed, and so on. Although our climatic conditions are different, some of the Mediterranean products can actually be replaced with more familiar and affordable ones, simply by adjusting the diet for our region: cod, mackerel or herring, buckwheat, pearl barley, oatmeal as whole grains, kefir and yogurt instead of yogurt. White cabbage will replace broccoli, and unrefined sunflower oil contains more omega-6, phytosterol and vitamin E than olive oil. And be sure to eat more seasonal berries, vegetables and fruits.

The balanced nutrition program follows the same principles that have made the Mediterranean diet famous around the world: fresh local produce, a balance of nutrients, healthy fats and whole grains.

A healthy, balanced diet helps maintain slimness, tone, good spirits and good health, increases performance and lifts your spirits. You can choose your desired calorie content or order a gluten and lactose free option.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The secret to healthy eating is not just the balance of nutrients. There are several areas of health where the potential of the Mediterranean diet is truly impressive:

  • mental health,
  • mental health of the elderly,
  • prevention of cancer problems.

The traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of depression, especially compared to a diet rich in fats and carbohydrates. The risk is 33 percent lower than for those who prefer fatty, sweet foods and fast food. According to one version, this is due to how the microflora in our intestines affects the body as a whole and especially the brain.

Free sugars and saturated fats can cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which can affect neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood. On the other hand, the studies themselves may simply confuse cause and effect: people with a bad mood are indeed more likely to eat poorly and eat more sweets; perhaps depression is primary, not nutrition.

Other benefits: The Mediterranean diet has shown good results for mental health in older adults. American and British gerontologists have found that lovers of this type of diet are 15–35 percent less likely to suffer from senile dementia and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Finally, limiting sugars and red meat in the diet reduces the risk of cancer. A review of research over the past 10 years found that the region's foods are rich in beneficial substances with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that slow the development of cancer cells.

Disadvantages and harms of the Mediterranean diet

The principles of the Mediterranean diet are consistent with WHO recommendations. By giving up junk food, a person usually loses weight, but smoothly and slowly, without harmful or dangerous side effects.

Perhaps the only drawback of the diet is the high cost of quality products. In addition, in winter, in our latitudes, it is difficult to eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day, or find fresh fish every day.

And the harm, as in any other diet, is associated with a lack of moderation and balance: drinking a bottle of wine every day while eating pizza is not good for anyone, even if the products are used the freshest.

Otherwise, there are no contraindications to the Mediterranean diet, except for intolerance to specific foods. It should be tried with caution only by those who have liver or gastrointestinal diseases. It is necessary to consult with your doctor and nutritionist in advance.

Tips for creating a Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest food systems in the world. But don’t forget that one of its secrets is healthy local products. These may be difficult to find replacements in northern regions.

The diet includes three main meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can snack on something harmless: fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries or yogurt without sweet additives.

An important part of the Mediterranean food culture is healthy habits that have a positive effect not only on physical but also on emotional health. For example, a love of family gatherings and cooking. Try it

  • cook with friends and relatives,
  • attend culinary master classes and courses,
  • organize themed dinners and parties.

This way, pleasant emotions will be added to the healthy food of the diet. Another essential component of the Mediterranean lifestyle is physical activity. You need to move at least 30 minutes a day: walk, dance, climb stairs, do housework. Weekends are best spent outdoors and in good company.

Daily consumption of wine on a diet can only benefit completely healthy people and in very moderate quantities. As a rule, no more than 150 ml of wine per day is safe for women, and no more than 200 ml for men. If there are even minimal risks, the health harm may be more noticeable than the benefit. If there is the slightest doubt, it is better to avoid alcohol altogether.

Remember, even the Mediterranean diet is not a panacea. It does not guarantee the prevention of heart attack and stroke, but it reduces the risk of depression, helps control weight, reduces the likelihood of developing dementia and is useful for preventing cancer.

sea ​​bass fillet on a Mediterranean diet

Example of a Mediterranean menu for the week


  • Breakfast: oatmeal with berries, whole grain muffin with coffee.
  • Lunch: fish broth and whole grain avocado sandwich.
  • Dinner: squid salad, fresh fruit.


  • Breakfast: unsweetened yogurt with fresh berries.
  • Lunch: vegetable curry with chickpeas and fresh seafood salad.
  • Dinner: Broccoli casserole, boiled egg.


  • Breakfast: omelet with tomatoes and olives.
  • Lunch: baked fish and quinoa, seasonal fruit compote.
  • Dinner: low-fat cottage cheese casserole with berries.


  • Breakfast: natural yogurt with nuts.
  • Lunch: minestrone soup and whole grain salmon sandwich.
  • Dinner: Sous vide potato casserole with chicken breast.


  • Breakfast: oatmeal with fruit and honey.
  • Lunch: brown rice with aromatic spices, egg and squid.
  • Dinner: pasta with seafood and a glass of red wine.


  • Breakfast: omelette with red fish and avocado platter.
  • Lunch: durum wheat spaghetti with baked turkey.
  • Dinner: vegetable lasagna and a glass of wine. .


  • Breakfast: steamed cheesecakes with pistachios and apples.
  • Lunch: fish soup and salad with avocado, grapes, arugula, nuts and goat cheese
  • Dinner: whole wheat pizza.