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About the Mediterranean Diet

by Contributing Writer
  • Overview

    In the mid-1990s, Harvard University's School of Public Health specialist Dr. Walter Willett developed a diet based on the eating patterns of the typical inhabitants of Crete and southern Italy. Many of the ingredients found in this diet were plant-based and included local foods such as yogurt, nuts, fish and fresh fruit. Moderate exercise is also prescribed in this diet since the inhabitants of the Mediterranean area were very physically active.
  • History

    Ancel Keys, an American doctor who lived in Salerno, Italy, first created the idea of a Mediterranean diet. It seemed contrary that a diet would recommend eating fat like the healthy fats prescribed in this diet. The people of that region consumed healthy fats from ingredients such as olive oil and salmon. Today it is understood that these healthy fats, or monounsaturated fats, are heart-healthy and may help stave off cardiovascular disease.
  • Key Benefits

    This diet is high in fiber and monounsaturated fats. A moderate amount of red wine is allowed on this diet for the healthy flavonoids with powerful antioxidant properties that red wine contains. Antioxidants are known to repair cells that have broken down from the aging process.
  • Potential Drawbacks

    Most of the calcium and iron comes from goat cheese or dark green vegetables instead of red meat. Those following this diet must make sure they consume enough dark green vegetables to get their body's daily needs of calcium and iron.
  • Prevention of Diabetes

    The British Medical Journal in May 2008 published a study where over 13,000 participants were studied on the Mediterranean diet in relation to diabetes. Every two years, these participants had to respond to a lengthy questionnaire about their diet. It was found that those who stayed close to the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of diabetes than those who strayed from the diet. According to this study, the reduction of the risk of diabetes was 83 percent.
  • Framework of the Diet

    Fruits and vegetable form the centerpiece of this diet. Healthy fats like olive oil and canola oil are allowed. Small portions of red wine and nuts are also encouraged. Fish is a preferred protein over red meat.
  • Typical Mediterranean Meals

    A typical meal on the Mediterranean diet may include a roast piece of salmon with a dill and yogurt sauce and sauteed spinach with brown rice. Another meal on this diet may include almond-crusted cod with roast asparagus and whole-grain pasta with homemade tomato sauce.

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