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Mediterranean Diet

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

The Mediterranean diet is one of the recommended healthy diets worldwide since it has the basic tenets of healthy balanced eating plans. This is a diet plan that is most favoured by the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

A healthy balanced diet is important in maintaining an optimum body weight, reducing the risk and preventing obesity and overweight and also reducing weight over time.

A healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and reduces the amounts of saturated fats and other unhealthy fats.

Mediterranean diet composition

The main ingredients in the Mediterranean diet include:-

  • Portions of fruits and vegetables. There should be 2.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables.
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • 2 cups of low fat milk or dairy products daily.
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil. All types of olive oil provide monounsaturated fat that helps reduce cholesterol. Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils are least processed and thus they contain the levels of the protective plant compounds with antioxidant effects.
  • Less than 4 eggs per week
  • Nuts - nuts are high in fat but walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazel nuts and other tree nuts, are low in saturated fat. Walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts should be taken in small amounts as they are high in calories.
  • Red wine, in moderation. Moderation implies no more than 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than 10 ounces (296 milliliters) of wine daily for men under age 65. Red wine has effects like Aspirin and helps in preventing harmful blood clots.
  • Fish consumption on a regular basis or at least twice weekly. Fish is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Reduced amounts of red meat in the diet.
  • In the Mediterranean region, bread is eaten without butter or margarines that are rich in saturated or trans fats.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The most studied benefit that is observed with the use of the Mediterranean diet is the reduction of the risk of heart disease.

A study in 2007 in the United States found that both men and women who consumed a Mediterranean diet lowered their risk of death from both heart disease and cancer.

Mediterranean diet helps in lowering the level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or the bad cholesterol which are responsible for atherosclerosis.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further reading

Last Updated: Apr 10, 2013

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