Mediterranean diet – foods and benefits

Mediterranean diet solely focuses on the consumption of whole foods with the addition of plenty of fruits and vegetables.

This diet also recommends less consumption of dairy products and meat.

Mediterranean diet benefits

Recommended foods

This diet recommends eating traditional Mediterranean foods.

Recommended foods for the Mediterranean diet are;

  • Vegetables – Vegetables have a greater health benefit including the ability to fight diseases and anti-inflammatory properties. The common vegetables for the Mediterranean diet are; artichokes, mustard greens, okra, nettles, onions, mushrooms, mache, lettuce, kale, chicory, leeks, eggplant, fennel, dandelion greens, cucumbers, celery, collard greens, celeriac, cabbage, Brussels sprout, carrots, broccoli, arugula, and beets.
  • Fruits – Fruits contain useful vitamins and minerals and they also help in reducing risks of cardiovascular infections. The recommended fruits for a Mediterranean diet are; tomatoes, strawberries, apricots, dates, figs, tangerines, avocados, cherries, clementines, grapefruits, melons, nectarines, grapes, olives, oranges, peaches, pears, and pomegranates.
  • Grains – Whole grains are highly recommended in the diet as they have several health functions. The recommended whole grains in the Mediterranean diet are; burley, buckwheat, millet, bulgur, farro, oats, polenta, rice, wheat berries, bread, pasta and couscous.
  • Olives and olive oil – Olives and olive oil are also common in Mediterranean meals because they have the potential to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the body. They also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities thus promoting general body health.
  • Herbs and spices – The addition of herbs and spices to the Mediterranean reduces the urge to add more salt. High salt consumption is dangerous to your health. Some of the best herbs and spices for the Mediterranean diet are; parsley, saffron, thyme, basil, rosemary, oregano, sage, za’atar, and cilantro.
  • Nuts – Nuts are also a staple food in the diet because they are rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. These components have anti-inflammatory properties and can play a role in preventing cardiovascular infections. The common nuts in the Mediterranean diet are; cashew nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts
  • Beans, legumes – Beans and legumes add proteins and fiber to the diet. A recent study from the Havard University revealed that beans and legumes can help control blood sugar, help in weight control and lower blood pressure. The common beans and legumes in the Mediterranean diet are; cannellini beans, chickpeas, fava beans, green beans, kidney beans, lentils, and split peas.
  • Fish – Fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon and herring are the best for the Mediterranean diet as they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish and whitefish can also be added to the diet as they are rich in lean proteins but they have a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Cheese and yogurt – Cheese and yogurt are to be eaten in moderation. They have a role in heart health and reduces the need to consume other dairy products in plenty
  • Eggs – Egg consumption is highly recommended in the this diet. They are rich in nutrients. It is recommended you try limiting egg yorks consumption to 4 per week while egg white can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
  • Meat – Red meat is allowed in the Mediterranean diet but it must be consumed in moderation. If eaten in moderation it will help in reducing the risks of cardiovascular diseases. Lean red meat, that is pork, beef, lamb, and veel can be eaten 3 – 4 times a month.
  • Red wine – Red wine is allowed for consumption in the Mediterranean diet. Consuming wine in moderation has great potential benefits on the body. It plays a vital role in reducing the incidences of heart diseases.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Confirmed health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are;

  • It helps in brain health by reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It can play a role in anti-aging
  • Prevent against heart diseases and stroke
  • Reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Reduces the risks of cancer
  • Plays a role in preventing diabetes
  • It can help in weight loss
  • It can help reduce the risks of rheumatoid arthritis
  • It can also help in reducing depression
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties

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Foods to avoid in the Mediterranean diet

For a better Mediterranean diet, there are some foods that you should keep off.

The foods to avoid in the Mediterranean diet are;

  • Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats
  • Avoid hard liquors
  • Refined grains should not be included in this diet
  • Reduce consumption of hydrogenated oils
  • Avoid foods with added sugars such as sodas and pastries
  • Avoid refined grains such as white pasta
  • Avoid any packaged or processed foods

Mediterranean diet and exercise

Participating in exercise when in a this diet is highly recommended. A recent study at Saint Louis University revealed that eating a Mediterranean diet improves athletes’ endurance in just 4 days.

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