What is the Mediterranean Diet?

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The Mediterranean Diet is the Best Overall and Easiest to Follow in 2019, according to U.S. News & World Report

In 1993 Oldways created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid – in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and the WHO – as a healthier alternative to the USDA’s original food pyramid. Today, the Mediterranean Diet is more popular than ever, with new research every month documenting its benefits, and chefs and home cooks alike embracing Mediterranean ingredients and flavors. Starting at the base of the pyramid, you’ll find:

  • Core foods to enjoy every day: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil.
  • Twice weekly servings of fish and seafood.
  • Moderate portions of dairy foods, eggs, and occasional poultry.
  • Infrequent servings of red meats and sweets.

How To Get Started

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How do you put these principles into practice? The 4 Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan Book (in print and e-book form) takes you through a month of Mediterranean-style eating, day-by-day and meal-by-meal.

BUY THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET PLAN BOOK

Oldways also offers a wealth of online health information and recipes. Continue reading below to start enjoying good taste and good health with the Mediterranean Diet!

 

Our Mediterranean Diet Email Newsletter

Want even more inspiration? Sign up for our Fresh Fridays newsletter. Our bi-weekly e-newsletter delivered right to your inbox celebrates the Mediterranean Diet and its remarkable health benefits. Each issue includes delicious recipes that will remind you just how easy it is to enjoy beautiful, simple, economical, and easy-to-find Mediterranean foods. 

Our “Mediterranean Diet 101” brochure: Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet

Learn more about the health benefits and the “how-to” of the traditional Mediterranean Diet, with our Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet brochure. This trifold brochure, available either as a downloadable PDF or in hard copy, includes the 8 simple steps above, plus more – to introduce you to the Mediterranean Diet.

Download “Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet” (fondly referred to by us as “Mediterranean Diet 101”)

To purchase hard copies of this brochure, please visit our Oldways store.

8 Steps to Getting Started with the Mediterranean Diet

Embracing the Med Diet is all about making some simple but profound changes in the way you eat today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life.

  1. Eat lots of vegetables. From a simple plate of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and crumbled feta cheese to stunning salads, garlicky greens, fragrant soups and stews, healthy pizzas, or oven-roasted medleys, vegetables are vitally important to the fresh tastes and delicious flavors of the Med Diet.
  2. Change the way you think about meat. If you eat meat, have smaller amounts – small strips of sirloin in a vegetable sauté, or a dish of pasta garnished with diced prosciutto.
  3. Enjoy some dairy products. Eat Greek or plain yogurt, and try smaller amounts of a variety of cheeses.
  4. Eat seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish including mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for brain and heart health.
  5. Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week. Build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and heighten the flavor with fragrant herbs and spices. Down the road, try two nights per week.
  6. Use good fats. Include sources of healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados.
  7. Switch to whole grains. Whole grains are naturally rich in many important nutrients; their fuller, nuttier taste and extra fiber keep you satisfied for hours. Cook traditional Mediterranean grains like bulgur, barley, farro and brown, black or red rice, and favor products made with whole grain flour.
  8. For dessert, eat fresh fruit. Choose from a wide range of delicious fresh fruits — from fresh figs and oranges to pomegranates, grapes and apples. Instead of daily ice cream or cookies, save sweets for a special treat or celebration.

Foods & Flavors of the Mediterranean Diet

It’s likely that many Mediterranean foods are already among your favorites. There are so many choices! Check out our Mediterranean Foods glossary to learn about some of the most popular dishes people living around the Mediterranean Sea make with these ingredients.

Another great resource is our Mediterranean Pantry page, which lists products from Mediterranean Foods Alliance member companies.

Download a list of traditional Mediterranean foods.

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The Mediterranean Diet and Health: Proven Benefits in Countless Studies 

Scientists have intensely studied the eating patterns characteristic of the Mediterranean Diet for more than half a century.

Shortly after World War II, Ancel Keys and colleagues (including Paul Dudley White, later President Eisenhower’s heart doctor) organized the remarkable Seven Countries Study to examine the hypothesis that Mediterranean-eating patterns contributed directly to improved health outcomes. This long-running study examined the health of almost thirteen thousand middle-aged men in the United States, Japan, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, and then-Yugoslavia.

When the data were examined, it was clear that people who ate a diet where fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, and fish were the basis of daily meals were healthiest. Topping the chart were residents of Crete. Even after the deprivations of World War II – and in part, perhaps, because of them –  the cardiovascular health of Crete residents exceeded that of US residents. Researchers attributed the differences to diet.

Out of this extensive work came an understanding that certain Mediterranean-eating patterns were remarkably connected with good health. From this conclusion emerged the concept of a “Mediterranean Diet” that could promote lifelong good health.

In subsequent years, hundreds if not thousands of additional studies have added to the body of scientific evidence supporting the “gold standard” status of traditional Mediterranean Diet eating patterns.  These studies show that eating the Med way may:

  • Lengthen your life 
  • Improve brain function
  • Defend you from chronic diseases 
  • Fight certain cancers 
  • Lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and elevated “bad” cholesterol levels
  • Protect you from diabetes 
  • Aid your weight loss and management efforts 
  • Keep away depression
  • Safeguard you from Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ward off Parkinson’s disease 
  • Improve rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Improve eye health
  • Reduce risk of dental disease
  • Help you breathe better 
  • Lead to healthier babies
  • Lead to improved fertility

Check out our Health Studies page, where we post all the latest research in support of the Mediterranean Diet and other traditional ways of eating.

 The Healthy Pasta Meal

Today’s healthy pasta meals have roots that stretch back to ancient times. Thousands of years ago, people ground wheat, mixed it with water to make a wheat paste, dried it, and then boiled it to go with meals. Today’s consumers welcome pasta to their tables for its versatility and convenience, just as nutrition scientists recognize pasta meals for their place in healthy eating patterns, such as the “gold standard” Mediterranean Diet and the traditional Latin American diet.  Read more