The Mediterranean diet aims to increase life expectancy by protecting against cardiovascular disease and cancer risks. It is directly inspired by the traditional eating habits of the populations of the Mediterranean region. It promotes the consumption of plants, quality fats, and whole grains. On the contrary, red meat, sugar, and industrial products have a limited place in it.
Characteristics of the Mediterranean diet:
- Protects against cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers
- From a predominantly plant-based diet
- Rich in quality, unsaturated fats
- Exceptional fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins intake
- Weight loss is not a priority
The main principles of the regime
It was a scientific study by Ancel Keys in the 1950s that highlighted the higher life expectancy of the people of Crete and Corfu despite a rudimentary health system. In the 1990s, Dr. Serge Renaud’s “French paradox” also highlighted the link between the Mediterranean diet and low recurrence rates of cardiovascular diseases.
How does the Mediterranean diet work?
The purpose of the Mediterranean diet is not to lose weight but to preserve arterial health to prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of contracting cancer. The frequency of consumption of fatty, sweet and processed foods is low, but this often leads to weight loss.
How does the Mediterranean diet lead to weight loss?
With an unusual content of monounsaturated fatty acids (from olive oil) and a low amount of saturated fatty acids (fatty meat), the Mediterranean diet helps lower cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis. Besides, fruits and vegetables and red wine containing tannins are considered to provide an excellent source of antioxidants that help protect against age-related diseases. However, these effects are seen in people with regular physical activity, so it is essential to combine this diet with an active lifestyle to discover the benefits.
The primary purpose of this diet is not weight loss. However, by adopting a healthy diet free of sweet, industrial or unhealthy fat products, it is natural to experience weight loss in the first few weeks. Especially if the food was previously anarchic and unbalanced.
How long does the Mediterranean diet last?
The Mediterranean diet is not time-limited. Health benefits, including the prevention of cardiovascular disease, are observed in the long term. Rather, it is a way of life that must be used daily to make better food choices.
Foods allowed in the Cretan diet and frequency of consumption
Here are the different food categories and their frequency of consumption in the Mediterranean diet:
- An abundance of whole-grain products
- An abundance of fruits and vegetables
- An abundance of garlic, onion, spices, and herbs
- Use of olive and rapeseed oil as a fat
- Daily consumption of legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Daily consumption of yogurt and sheep’s cheese (but not milk)
- Daily consumption, but moderate, of red wine (12 cal/day)
- High consumption of fish (several times a week)
- Limited consumption of chicken and eggs (a few times a week)
- Limited consumption of sweet foods (a few times a week)
- Very limited consumption of red meat (a few times a month)
- Reasonable daily caloric intake (1800 to 2500 calories per day depending on physical activity)
Mediterranean diet: recipes and standard menu
|Breakfast||Wholemeal bread and olive |
Oily sheep’s milk yogurt with honey
and almonds Orange
|Lunch||Tomatoes in olive oil, garlic and|
rice with slight vegetables,
fruit salad with cinnamon
|Lunch||Grilled peppers in olive|
oil Sardines wholemeal bread
a glass of red wine
Advantages and disadvantages
The positive points of the Mediterranean diet
- Excellent supply of quality fatty acids
- Rich in micronutrients, antioxidants, and dietary fiber
- Protection against cellular aging and cardiovascular diseases
- No frustration or monotony
- Easy to follow
- Compatible with an active social life
- Satiety provided by vegetable fibers and proteins
The negative points of the Mediterranean diet
- Decreased food quality (heavy metals in fish, pesticides, etc.)
- This requires an effort of cultural adaptation
This can be problematic for massive red meat eaters to follow
- Requires a little cooking
Recommendations and precautions to be taken
Are there any risks?
As long as the Mediterranean diet is adapted to the body’s needs, then there is no risk in following it. On the contrary, it is a varied and balanced diet, rich in micro and macronutrients of high quality.
Is this a diet for you?
Yes, if you want to take care of your cardiovascular system and age in good health. It is all the more appropriate if you suffer from lipid disorders (hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, etc.), a metabolic syndrome, or a history of cardiovascular pathologies. If you are overweight, the Mediterranean diet can also be an excellent way to achieve a healthy weight. If you are already in good health, the Cretan diet will allow you to maintain this optimal state of health for as long as possible.
Is it a diet compatible with sport?
Indeed, physical activity is one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet. By studying the populations around the Mediterranean, A. Keys realized that gentle, outdoor physical activity was an integral part of everyday life. To optimize the effects of the Mediterranean diet, it is therefore recommended to practice 30 minutes of activity per day: walking, hiking, cycling, running, swimming, dancing, etc.
How can I not gain weight?
The Mediterranean diet is not low-calorie or restrictive, so there is no reason to regain the weight. Moreover, it is a way of life that is supposed to be adopted in the long term. As long as good habits are maintained, there is no justification for weight gain.
Also read: Macrobiotic diet