Mediterranean diet-Intro, Diet plan, FAQs and Benefits

In 2010, UNESCO listed the Mediterranean diet as an intangible cultural heritage jointly owned by Spain, Greece, Italy and Morocco, affirming that this model is not only an important historical and cultural product of these countries, but also a huge treasure of world civilization .


It has been found that people living in the Mediterranean coast regions such as Spain and Greece generally live longer. And are less likely to suffer from cancer and cardiovascular diseases than people in other regions. Why on earth?

The secret of these people is an active lifestyle, weight control and diet management. In their daily diet, they seldom eat foods high in red meat, sugar and saturated fatty acids, but have a preference for agricultural and sideline products, nuts, and olive oil. Such a diet composition may play a positive role in weight management, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health, cancer prevention, diabetes prevention and management, etc. For example, it allows people to lose weight while protecting them from chronic diseases.

Generally speaking, there is no clear definition of the Mediterranean diet. For example, the Greeks eat differently from the Italians, and the Italians eat differently from the French and Spanish. But they all abide by some basic principles.


A typical Mediterranean diet one week recipe or something like this:

  • Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans, etc.
  • Fish and seafood (several times a week).
  • Poultry, eggs, dairy products, etc.
  • Red meat and desserts (You can only eat them once in a while).
  • Drinking some red wine in moderation is the icing on the cake.

What do the experts say?

Compared with other eating patterns, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the Mediterranean diet? Is the diet easy to follow in our daily lives? What benefits can the Mediterranean diet bring to our health?

With these questions, let’s take a look at how professionals judge this eating pattern. In the “U.S. News and World Report” ranking of the best diets, the Mediterranean diet ranks first among 35 diet patterns! Specifically, it ranks No. 1 in the best plant-based diet, easiest diet to follow, best diet for diabetes, and best diet for cardiovascular health. 2.

In general, this emphasizes the importance of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish, and other healthy foods. It has very significant characteristics and a comprehensive score of 4.2 points (out of 5). The significant advantages in nutrition, safety and heart health friendliness make it the top spot. Experts don not favor this diet in terms of weight loss.


Can we lose weight by following the Mediterranean diet?

The answer is that it might help you. When many people mention the Mediterranean diet, they will think of whether there is excess fat. After all, olive oil, olives, avocado, cheese, etc. are all fat-rich foods, but this may not be the case.

In 2018, Nutrition & Diabetes published an analysis of the eating patterns of 32,119 Italians for an average of 12 years. This diet reduces weight gain and increases waist circumference reduction.

Of course, the effect of weight loss ultimately depends on your actual actions and comparison with dietary pattern. For example, compared with the “calorie intake restriction” plan, the Mediterranean diet cannot be compared with it.

Four questions about the Mediterranean diet

How much does it cost?

Can the average person afford it? In fact, the cost of any diet depends on your specific diet content, and the Mediterranean diet is no exception. Although olive oil, nuts, seafood, especially fresh organic produce are not cheap, a reasonable choice will not incur long bills. In particular, replacing meat products with plant-based foods may reduce consumption. In short, living within your means will not create a burden.

Is it feasible to follow the Mediterranean diet for a long time?

Because it does not limit the intake of any kind of food, it is not difficult to follow the this diet for a long time. First of all, this is more convenient to practice. Both ingredients and recipes are easier to get. Many professional organization websites will provide detailed guidance. Not to mention that various search tools will let you retrieve a large number of healthy guidelines. Such as Mediterranean diet recommendations for people of different genders and ages, quick start manuals, and so on.


People may worry that eating out often prevents them from following this diet. The way to solve this problem is to boldly embrace the food while not enjoying an exclusive main course. You can start by ordering a salad and order more vegetables to fill your stomach. In addition, the Mediterranean diet does not require you to spend time preparing for exquisite cooking. You can purchase in advance and make it in advance, which can also save you time.

Third, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber and healthy fats. Eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, etc. can make you feel full. So you don’t have to worry about the rapid metabolism of the Mediterranean diet. Make you hungry. Based on these characteristics, the feasibility of sticking to the Mediterranean diet is very high.

Does the Mediterranean diet need to be supplemented by exercise?

The Mediterranean diet requires exercise, but you don’t have to make an exercise plan deliberately. Walking slowly may be a good choice. Of course, doing aerobics, Pilates or even trimming flowers and plants is also a daily exercise. The most important thing is to find a way of exercising that you can stick to. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. Healthy adults need to do a certain amount of aerobic exercise and fitness activities every week to maintain their health.

Adhere to the concept of sitting less and more active. For example, if you do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity activities a week, you can get more health benefits.

Do Mediterranean diet cause any health risks?

From children to the elderly, the Mediterranean diet is generally safe. But it is necessary for people with specific health conditions to follow the advice of nutrition experts. Generally speaking, the Mediterranean diet is a type of recipe with strong universality, a wide audience, and low health risks.

People’s interest in a diet may be the greatest motivation from the strong pursuit of maintaining good health. You can characterize this diet by eating healthy foods and delivers a variety of health benefits. Next, let’s look at the impact of the Mediterranean diet on specific disease risks.

Mediterranean diet and disease risk

1) The influence of the Mediterranean diet on heart health risks

Intuitively, the Mediterranean diet is a diet model that is good for heart health. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). If you can avoid saturated fatty acids as much as possible in your daily diet and consume mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids as much as possible, then heart health will benefit a lot.

In 2013, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that if people at high risk of heart disease adopt the Mediterranean diet, their risk of heart attack, stroke, and death due to heart disease can be reduced by 30%.

In 2016, scientific researchers from Europe analyzed the eating habits and health benefits of 23,902 British people, and found that people who adopt the Mediterranean diet have a low risk of heart disease. About 1 to 6% of heart disease cases and 2 to 14% of stroke cases after they followed the Mediterranean diet were prevented.

2) Mediterranean diet and metabolic syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome (MS), obesity, diabetes and other diseases are on the rise all over the world, becoming the main public health concerns. According to the statistics of the World Health Organization, the incidence of MS worldwide is about 13.4~70%. There is no doubt that we need to act immediately to prevent and control the growing trend of MS.

Researchers conducted a Meta-analysis of 50 research results covering nearly 530,000 research data and found that following the Mediterranean diet is correlated with reducing the occurrence and development of MS.

In addition, the higher the degree of compliance, the more positive the MS indications will be. MS indications include waist circumference, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.

3) Prevention and control of diabetes by Mediterranean diet

In the prevention and control of diabetes, this diet may be included in your alternative plan. In controlling diabetes, it is consistent with the nutritional guidelines of the American Diabetes Association.

A 2019 study, published in Diabetes Care showed that people with diabetes, if adopted Mediterranean diet, there will be significant improvements in glycemic control and insulin sensitivity.

Mediterranean diet and intestinal flora

More and more evidences continue to show that the abuse of antibiotics, excessive medical treatment, and modern lifestyle diets have led to changes in the intestinal flora, seriously affecting the diversity of intestinal flora, and the lack of diversity will significantly increase the incidence of chronic diseases.

In an industrialized society, the intake of dietary fiber is relatively low. Less fiber intake will not only reduce the composition and diversity of the intestinal flora. But also reduce the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). And SCFA plays an important role in human health. There is a correlation between the dietary components of the traditional Mediterranean diet and certain beneficial flora and fermentation end products.

The plant-based food components

In this diet are relatively large. In addition, a large amount of plant food ingredients, such as plant protein, polysaccharides, and dietary fiber, will increase bifidobacteria significantly. And it is also significantly positively correlated with propionate-producing bacteria in the fecal flora, and SCFA in feces increases.

At the same time, studies have shown that plant-based diets not only increase the ratio of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. But also stimulate the growth of other beneficial bacteria, especially the bacterial groups that produce propionate and methane. Different sources of protein can affect the intestinal flora. Intake of plant-based protein will increase Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, reduce pathogenic bacteria in Bacteroides and Clostridium, and increase SCFA-producing bacteria.


Especially non-digestible carbohydrates, such as fiber and resistant starch, have the greatest impact on the composition, diversity and metabolic spectrum of the intestinal flora. As a potential prebiotic, carbohydrates can stimulate the activity and growth of bifidobacteria. When they reach the large intestine, they are fermented by the intestinal flora to produce SCFA.

In contrast, people whose diets are rich in meat, sugar or fast food have lower levels of “healthy” intestinal flora and higher levels of inflammation markers. At the same time, plant protein is friendlier to intestinal flora than animal protein. We can see from this that there is a certain correlation between specific flora and whether to follow this diet. This suggests that our nutritional strategy may have an impact on physiology and health through the intestinal flora.

Is it wise to follow Mediterranean diet?

The health effects of this diet and its good prevention and control effects on chronic diseases have captured the hearts of many enthusiasts who pursue fashion and health and advocate health preservation. However, it should be noted that this, as an “exotic product”, is quite different from the existing diet. It is not advisable to blindly promote the Mediterranean diet and force a change in the current diet.

Especially for people at risk of suffering from diseases, it is necessary to follow the medical guidance and follow the advice of nutrition experts. For ordinary people, it may be a wise move to customize a localized and personalized “Mediterranean diet” that suits their own taste and that they can afford and stick to the Mediterranean diet.

Benefits of Mediterranean diet

Since the Mediterranean diet was proposed in the 1980s, there has been continuous research on the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and health, and considerable research literature has been published today. Among the many literatures, we first pick out the Mediterranean diet and various health issues that modern people are often concerned about. And help you review and organize some literature. But before we start, we must emphasize that many of the research results we have seen so far have not yet clearly confirmed the causality.

1. Extend life

Regardless of whether it is targeted at residents around the Mediterranean or people living in other places, studies have found that eating this diet can significantly reduce the risk of death, that is, the chance of living longer is greater. In addition, studies have also found that people who eat this diet have significantly longer chromosomal telomeres in white blood cells than people with poor diet. The length of chromosome telomeres is generally considered to be related to aging by the medical profession. Usually, the length of telomeres will be shortened during the aging process. However, the current evidence is insufficient to confirm that people who eat a Mediterranean diet will shorten their chromosomal telomeres at a slower rate.

Chromosome telomere is a small piece of DNA-protein complex that exists at the end of linear chromosomes in eukaryotic cells. Together with telomere binding protein, it forms a special “cap” structure. Every time a cell divides, the telomere will become shorter. When it is short enough, the cell will begin to age and eventually go to apoptosis. When it reaches the individual, life will end earlier. 

2. Improve brain function/cognitive ability/dementia/Parkinson’s disease

The Mediterranean diet has been found in many epidemiological and randomized controlled trials to have a positive effect on cognitive ability. Studies have found that people who eat a diet that is highly similar to the Mediterranean diet will slow down the rate of cognitive decline, the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It is just that the current research evidence is not enough. In the future, more long-term randomized controlled trials are needed to verify whether the Mediterranean diet can help prevent or delay the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Even for Parkinson’s disease, studies have compared the dietary patterns of Parkinson’s disease patients with those of ordinary people. And found that the early onset of Parkinson’s disease is related to low scores on the Mediterranean diet (low scores refer to It means that the diet is very different from the Mediterranean diet).

3. Prevent cardiovascular disease

Looking back at past studies, the Mediterranean diet has positive benefits for cardiovascular health, but the current evidence has not been able to give a definite answer. Among them, PREDIMED (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) is a large-scale study conducted in Spain. People with a high risk of cardiovascular disease were recruited to conduct a randomized controlled trial.

 More than 7,000 participants were randomly divided into three groups, namely Mediterranean diet + Olive oil, Mediterranean diet + nuts and control group (low-fat diet), the first group will consume up to about 1 liter of olive oil a week, and the second group will consume 30 grams of nuts a day. After an average of 4.8 years of follow-up, it was found that for people with high risk of cardiovascular disease, the additional intake of virgin olive oil or nuts in the Mediterranean diet can help reduce the occurrence of major cardiovascular events. In addition, in the two groups of Mediterranean diets, eating more olive oil has a better effect in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of death.

4. Weight Management

A systematic review study compared the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet, low-fat diet, low-carbohydrate diet and the American Diabetes Association diet in weight loss and cardiovascular disease risk prevention. The participants in the study were either overweight or obese, and the duration of both the trials was more than 12 months old. The results of the study found that the Mediterranean diet has a better weight loss effect than the low-fat diet. The former loses 4.1~10.1 kg while the low-fat diet loses 2.9~5.0 kg. In addition, these diets can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  But it is important to remind that weight is the final result of many variables. For a more complete understanding, you can refer to the article on Weight Loss Guide. 

5. Prevent diabetes

In 2017, there was a retrospective study on the relationship between type 2 diabetes and eating patterns, analyzing 48 studies covering 16 generations. The results found that the three types of diets including the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) are all likely to prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

6. Reduce the risk of certain cancers

The results of the integrated analysis of observational studies found that people with the highest scores on the Mediterranean diet were associated with lower risks of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, head and neck cancer, pancreatic cancer, and pneumoniaBut for esophagus, ovaries, endometrium and bladder cancer, there is no significant relationship. 

7. Prevent rheumatoid arthritis

In 2017, there was a review of the literature on the prevention and improvement of the Mediterranean diet in rheumatoid arthritis (Rheumatoid arthritis, referred to as RA). It was found that the Mediterranean diet was related to reducing the pain caused by RA and increasing the patient’s body function. However, it should be reminded that the evidence at this stage is insufficient to support widespread adoption of the Mediterranean diet to prevent RA. In addition, a prospective generation study showed that the elements that play a role in the control of RA may come from the rich intake of polyunsaturated fats, and olive oil is the main source of this fat.

8. Helps in getting rid of depression

Diet patterns may affect the occurrence of depression. Compared with Western-style diet, Mediterranean diet and healthy diet may have a preventive effect on depression, but the current evidence is insufficient to confirm this relationship. There is also a French generational study that found that a high degree of Mediterranean diet results in a lower risk of depression symptoms during middle age, especially in men.

9. Eye health

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that has received great attention in recent years. The European Eye Study surveyed more than 5,000 elderly people over 65. They compared the Mediterranean diet score and age-related macular degeneration and found that the higher the Mediterranean diet score, the lower the risk of advanced macular degeneration. However, due to the scale of the research and the ethnic groups involved, the evidence is still insufficient. 

10. Improves Joint health

Although there is no large-scale research yet, there are studies investigating the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and osteoarthritis inflammation and cartilage degeneration. It was found that the inflammation and cartilage degradation indicators of the Mediterranean diet group were lower than those of the normal diet group. And that the Mediterranean diet may improve knee and hip joint activity. In addition, a study found that a high degree of this diet is associated with a better quality of life and a reduction in symptoms of pain, disability and depression. 

11. Improves Kidney health

Some studies have found that people who prefer a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop chronic kidney disease. For those who are already suffering from chronic kidney disease, studies have also found that it may help slow down the decline of kidney function.

12. Fertility

A systematic review of observational studies found that men whose diets highly follow the Mediterranean diet may improve their sperm quality and fertility. However, large-scale prospective generation studies are still needed in the future to confirm this observation. 

13. Pregnancy and child health

Nutritional status during pregnancy will not only affect the growth and development of the fetus, but may also affect the health of the baby after birth. A generational study conducted a study on this, and it was found that pregnant women whose diet during pregnancy are closer to the Mediterranean diet are healthier than others before the child is born. Pregnant women who use the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy are less likely to be at risk of abdominal obesity.

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