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What Foods Are in the Mediterranean Diet?

by Brent Sandmeyer
  • Overview

    What Foods Are in the Mediterranean Diet?
    What Foods Are in the Mediterranean Diet?
    The Mediterranean diet is not some strict dietary regimen, but rather a set of guidelines for traditional eating that emphasizes fresh, healthful ingredients over the heavy red meat and processed foods that define the American diet.
  • History

    The Mediterranean diet guidelines were introduced to the world in 1993 at an academic conference, but the actual diet is based on the traditional eating patterns of residents of Mediterranean olive-growing regions, who were found to have long lives and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Geography

    Although over 20 countries surround the Mediterranean Sea, the Mediterranean diet guidelines focus mainly on sections of Italy, Greece and Crete, where olives are grown for food and oil. Adjacent to the sea, the coastal regions of these countries also have a rich tradition of seafood dishes.
  • Types

    Whole grain breads and pastas play a prominent role, providing a solid base of flavor and fiber for fruits, vegetables and seafood. Common Mediterranean diet fruits include grapes, olives and avocados. Vegetables include spinach, beans, eggplant, tomatoes and garlic. Eat fish at least two or three times a week. Tree nuts such as walnuts, pine nuts, and pecans provide a flavorful accent to dishes salads and pastas, and their high levels of unsaturated fat leave you feeling satisfied without heaviness.
  • Features

    The Mediterranean diet is far from low fat, due to the inclusion of nuts and the ever-present olive oil, but saturated fat and cholesterol from red meat is limited. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains make the diet high in fiber.
  • Function

    According to the Mayo Clinic, people who stick to a traditional Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

    References & Resources