Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet


Greeks who live on the Island of Crete have significantly less heart disease and cancer than Americans.  Research studies suggest it is the Mediterranean diet that may give Cretans their health advantage.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts such as almonds and walnuts.  It has been associated with lower risk of recurrent heart attacks than people who followed the traditional low fat, low cholesterol Step I American Heart Association diet, in which fat intake is less than 30% of daily calories. 

The Mediterranean diet is low in the animal fat of red meat as well as the  hydrogenated fats found in margarine and processed food. Instead, monounsaturated oils such as olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil are used. The diet does recommend limiting fat in general in people trying to lose weight.

The Mediterranean diet also includes up to one glass of red wine for women and up to two glasses per day in men.  However, if you do not already drink red wine, you should not start drinking just to get the benefits to the heart.  Remember that alcohol is addictive, and that the health benefits are lost when more than recommended amounts of alcohol are  consumed.

You may be able to get the same health benefits by drinking purple/red grape juice.  Purple grapes contain Oligomeric Proantho Cyannidins (OPCs) which neutralize free radicals in the body.  This may help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Low fat dairy, including yogurt, is consumed by Greeks in the Mediterranean.  However, like most healthy diets, sweets and processed foods (including tropical oils) are limited.

Nuts are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet because they provide heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Remember that because they are high in fat, no more than a handful of nuts should be eaten daily.

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is provided courtesy of Oldwayspt.org.

Last updated January 15, 2012 by Dr. Vee

One thought on “Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

  1. Thanks for writing this informative article.
    It seems many people are attracted to the idea of a meditterannean diet, but fail to actually implement it. As a health coach, I encourage this diet. It is easy to implement once it becomes part of one’s lifestyle- like all things, but I find that initially it may take some retraining of the brain. It always amazes me when clients, after months of practicing a diet based on fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and yogurt, cannot imagine ever eating any differently. That’s when you know, you have made it a true lifestyle change!

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