The Mediterranean diet is fast becoming one of the most popular diets. U.S. News and World Report states that the Mediterranean Diet is the #1 Best Diet for 2023.
The Mediterranean diet, or "Med Diet," is based on healthy food such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs, beans (legumes), and olive oil. It holds roots in the traditional food of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The countries of the Mediterranean basin include the European Mediterranean countries from Spain to Greece, a portion of the Middle East (Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine), and the northern African countries from Egypt to Morocco.
History of The Med Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is a blend of traditional aromatic and healthy food. This geographical zone has witnessed throughout history and intense human activity. Various civilizations and cultures have emerged into the lands of the basin.
Romans, Greeks, Persians, Ottomans, and Arabs, among others, contributed massively to what is today the Mediterranean-style diet. From ancient times to the Middle Ages and then to the modern ages, the Mediterraneans’ kept the wealth and secrets of the food of each people.
The Mediterranean diet had become a way of life. For years, it has been passed on from generation to generation. It is a blend of food cultures, skills, traditions, knowledge, and importations of different communities.
It is worth mentioning that the people living in the basin have a strong connection with nature. So, food in this region is tremendously influenced by nature and plants, as it revolves around vegetables, fruits, olive trees, and plants.
Living abroad, whenever I craved a Mediterranean dish from my homeland, I always called my grandmother, who lived in Lebanon, for some cooking tips. She always gave me the authentic recipe she had inherited from her mother.
Foods on the Med Diet
The Mediterranean diet contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish (white and oily) such as sardine and salmon, whole-grain cereal such as wholemeal bread and brown rice, beans such as chickpeas and lentils, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
It also comprises small amounts of lean meat and low-fat dairy. Every meal contains olive oil, fresh herbs, onions, and garlic. The knowledge of herbs the people know in this region of the world is impressive.
Also, people think that wine is an essential component of the Mediterranean diet. It is indeed heart-healthy when consumed moderately.
The Oldways food pyramid for the Mediterranean diet showcases what to eat. One should enjoy whole-grain foods at almost every meal as well as olive oil. The olive tree is almost the symbol of the Mediterranean area.
People in the basin are blessed with seasonal vegetables and fruits. They consume it abundantly. Also, nuts and seeds are part of their daily eating habits.
The Mediterranean diet supports a very low intake of red meat and processed foods. However, you can still enjoy your pasta and pizza by adding to it lots of veggies.
The Mediterranean diet recommends eating poultry, eggs, and dairy very moderately. Yet, lean red meat is appropriate once a week or occasionally. And most of all, make sure to stay active every day, as physical movement is an essential element of the Mediterranean diet to stay healthy.
Hence, the Mediterranean diet is not a structured diet tailor-made for you to lose weight. It is a lifestyle, a graceful way of living.
What are the Health Benefits?
Various studies showed that people living in the Mediterranean region are less likely to face cardiovascular diseases, strokes, or diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet is complete with lots of water and coupled with daily physical activity.
Switching to the Mediterranean-style diet reduces the level of cholesterol, which prevents heart disease and stroke. Another benefit is protecting against insulin resistance, which prevents diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive decline.
When it comes to the Mediterranean diet, it is not only about the food. It is also about the habits of the people in the region. It’s about eating together, conversing over delicious Mediterranean food, and a sip of some good wine.
The main components that make the Mediterranean diet unique and comprehensive are:
- Healthy fats consumed in moderation: These are fats contained in olive oil, avocado nuts, and fish (salmon, tuna, sardine, and mackerel), which are a principal source of omega-3.
- Lean protein: Lean protein is found in chicken, eggs, dairy (in smaller portions), or in meat occasionally. Fish and seafood are great sources of lean protein, too. Try this Roasted Steelhead Trout, Garlic Lemon Shrimp, Boiled Lobster Tails, or grilled chicken kabobs.
- Fiber: Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains (whole-wheat bread and whole-wheat pasta), legumes, and nuts. Eat lentils (mujadara), chickpeas (chickpea fatteh), sweet potatoes (roasted sweet potato wedges), white potatoes (roasted baby potatoes), cauliflower, broccoli, spinach (Egyptian spinach), and cruciferous vegetables.
- Antioxidants: These are usually found in berries, like this strawberry banana smoothie or Greek yogurt fruit granola bowls. Enjoy blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries.
- Eat seasonally: Use fresh tomatoes to make your own tomato sauce. Zucchini is great stuffed (mahshi kousa) or sliced (ground beef zucchini rice casserole).
Whether vegetarian or vegan, the Mediterranean diet is perfect for you as it provides the necessary vitamins, proteins, and fiber.
The Mediterranean diet is more than a diet. It's a way of living. Here are some tips for the Mediterranean diet:
- Enjoy lots of seasonal vegetables within your meals and have fruits as dessert.
- Buy whole-grain bread, rice, and pasta.
- Eat more fish and seafood, like these garlic butter steamed lobster tails.
- Eat red meat occasionally.
- Consume a moderate amount of dairy products. Choose low-fat or no-fat dairy products, like feta cheese or labneh.
- Avoid processed foods and sweets.
- Enjoy nuts as snacks in moderation.
- Use various herbs for cooking, like rosemary grilled chicken thighs or tabouli parsley salad.
- Make sure to spice up your food and use spices creatively! This bengali chicken curry and chicken biryani rice follow the Mediterranean diet (although they are not Mediterranean recipes).
- Drink more water and less wine. Consume red wine in moderation.
- Go for a morning jog, yoga, or whatever activity you feel good doing.
Delicious Mediterranean Diet Recipes
If you are looking for some yummy Mediterranean Diet recipes, check out the Mediterranean Diet Recipes collection. We've also compiled a list of the best Mediterranean breakfast ideas. More of our favorites are below.
- Lebanese Vermicelli Rice Pilaf
- Authentic Bengali Chicken Curry
- Mediterranean Grilled Eggplant Dip
- Moroccan Ground Lamb Chili
- Gluten-Free Tabbouleh Salad with Quinoa
- Authentic Lebanese Red Lentil Soup
- Easy Lebanese Homemade Yogurt (Laban)
- Peach Banana Pineapple Smoothie
- Vegetarian Eggplant Fatteh (Fattet Batinjan)
- Authentic Lebanese Chicken Shawarma
- Best Mediterranean Diet Breakfast Recipes
- Mediterranean Baked Whole Red Snapper Fish
- The BEST Baked Steelhead Trout with Garlic Butter Sauce
- Homemade Ground Beef Ragu Spaghetti Sauce (Italian Recipe)
- Sautéed Lemon Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta Recipe
- Easy Sautéed Lemon Garlic Butter Shrimp