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The Mediterranean diet

 

Definition

The Mediterranean diet has fewer meats and carbohydrates and more plant-based foods and monounsaturated (good) fat than a typical American diet. Many people who live in Italy, Spain, and other countries in the Mediterranean region have eaten this way for centuries.

Following the Mediterranean diet may lead to more stable blood sugars, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and a lower risk of heart disease and other health problems.

How to Follow the Diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on:

  • Plant-based meals, with just small amounts of meat and chicken, when they are used
  • Larger servings of grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes
  • Foods that naturally contain high amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients
  • Plenty of fish and other seafood that are rich in omega 3 fats
  • Olive oil, a healthy, monounsaturated fat, as the main source of fat used to flavor and prepare foods
  • Food that is prepared and seasoned simply, without sauces and gravies
  • Flavorful meals that bring out the natural taste of foods
  • Dining with others at a relaxed pace
Foods Not in the Diet

Foods that are eaten in small amounts or NOT at all in the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Red meats
  • Sweets and other desserts
  • Eggs
  • Butter
Possible Health Concerns

Possible health concerns with the Mediterranean include:

  • Weight gain, from the fats in olive oil and nuts
  • Reduced iron levels. If you choose to follow the Mediterranean diet, be sure to eat foods rich in iron or in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron.
  • Calcium loss from eating fewer dairy products. Ask your doctor if you should take a calcium supplement. Risk for alcohol abuse, since it is common to drink wine with meals. Avoid wine if you are prone to alcohol abuse, are pregnant, at risk for breast cancer, or have other conditions that alcohol could make worse.

Review Date: 12/13/2008
Reviewed By: Larry A. Weinrauch MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cardiovascular Disease and Clinical Outcomes Research, Watertown, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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