Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean-style diet reduces the risk of heart disease, overall mortality, cardiovascular mortality, cancer and cancer mortality, and the incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
A plant-based diet
A Mediterranean-style diet describes a plant-based diet, with about 15% of calories from protein and approximately 30%–35% of calories from healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat. The remainder of calories comes from unprocessed, fiber-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables of all kinds, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Fish is commonly eaten, especially omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish. All meats are grilled, broiled, or sautéed and usually are not deep-fried. Red meat is saved for special occasions and in small portions, and a glass of wine with meals is traditional. Olive oil is used instead of margarine or shortening. Butter is not banned, but adding fat to bread is not usual behaviour. Finally, the diet includes small amounts of dairy, often whole cow’s milk and goat’s milk, and limited eggs and wine.
Eating a Mediterranean-style diet, while maintaining a healthy weight, can reduce the risk for many medical conditions. However, people should pay attention to portion size, because calories count—even “good” calories. The traditional Mediterranean diet plan includes foods naturally high in fat, such as olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. This is why portion size is important in order to prevent weight gain. For example, olive oil, with its favorable ratio of “good” monounsaturated fat to “bad” unsaturated fat, is certainly heart-healthy, but will not, in itself, prevent disease. As such, too much wine can prove counterproductive.
The Mediterranean diet follows the following type of eating pattern. Many variations exist.