Have you been thinking about switching up your diet and trying something new? Do you feel low energy every day and wish something would change?
Well, changing your diet to the Mediterranean Diet can help! You'll start to feel better daily by switching to this diet.
So where do you even start? What is it? How does it actually help you?
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!
History of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is one of the oldest diets out there. It originates from where the entire ancient world started.
Here, the origins come from around the area of the Nile and around the Tigris and Euphrates. As time went on, the Cretans inhabited this area and later the Greeks and Romans called this area home.
This diet takes on the values of food as high quality and safe – of eating off the land, if you will. It takes after what the ancient people of the Mediterranean ate from their land and seas. The Mediterranean Diet was not just a "diet," but a way of life.
It takes the traditions, customs, cultures, ways of conserving and processing the food, the preparation, and the cooking into consideration.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
With an understanding of where the Mediterranean diet originates from, it is easier to understand what exactly it is and what kinds of food are consumed with this diet.
A better way to look at it, is that the Mediterranean Diet is a way to live healthier. It is a diet that has a focus on healthy living, rather than the exact foods you can eat and the exact amount of carbs and calories you can consume.
The diet has a heavy focus on plant-based nutrition with lots of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. For protein, the majority comes from fish and seafood, and red meat is rarely eaten. Eggs are eaten every day, and olive oil is the form of healthy fat instead of butter or other saturated fats.
What Are the Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
Because the Mediterranean Diet is so healthy, there are plenty of benefits that come from it. Not only does it promote a healthier physical being in regards to your heart and organs, but it also impacts you on a mental level to help with your mood and energy levels.
Promotes Heart Health
Studies show that the Mediterranean diet promotes heart health and has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. One reason that this occurs is that the foods consumed with this diet slow the plaque buildup which is what causes strokes and heart disease.
There are also benefits to lowering blood pressure to promote a healthy heart on this diet.
This diet also improves sleep. One reason for this is that the foods that are eaten on this diet lead to fewer insomnia symptoms in people.
Many of the foods in this diet are full of melatonin, Vitamin D, and serotonin, which may improve how people sleep. For example, cherry juice and fatty fish have some of these vitamins, so consuming more of these can aid in sleep.
Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Since the Mediterranean diet is so heavy with nutrient-rich foods, the body is better able to stabilize blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels are not stable, you will notice some symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and dry mouth. Once you incorporate this diet, you may start to notice those symptoms go away.
Not only does the diet support healthy blood sugar levels because of the food, but it also has been shown to improve levels of A1C, which promotes long-term blood sugar control.
Aids in Weight Loss
The Mediterranean Diet limits the intake of processed foods and added sugars. Because of this, many people who switch to this diet will notice weight loss and their ability to keep the weight off over the years.
Boosts Cognitive Ability
It can be pretty scary to think that as we grow older, we may face a decline in our cognitive function. However, there are some studies that show that following the Mediterranean diet can actually slow down the cognitive decline many people face as they age.
Not only does it help as you get older, but it also helps in the moment with memory, cognitive function, and attention.
Who Is the Mediterranean Diet For?
The Mediterranean Diet can be for just about anyone! However, it has specific health benefits for people that are dealing with diseases or illnesses like cancer patients and those who have diabetes.
People with Cardiovascular Disease
Since the Mediterranean diet benefits heart health and better blood sugar levels, people who have cardiovascular disease would benefit greatly from the Mediterranean diet.
Studies have also shown that beginning the diet after a heart attack can actually cut the odds of having another one in half.
As mentioned previously, the Mediterranean diet supports healthy blood sugar levels. Diabetics have to watch their blood sugar levels closely and monitor them. Because of this, eating foods that support a stable blood sugar level would benefit them. These foods are consistent with the Mediterranean diet.
Because there are more unsaturated fats in the Mediterranean diet, there is a positive effect on insulin activity.
Although not many studies have been conducted about whether the Mediterranean diet can help the survival rate of cancer patients, it can help with symptoms and other effects that cancer has on the body.
Since the diet lowers blood sugar levels, promotes healthy hearts, and lowers weight, it has its benefits. The diet will help cancer patients and survivors with their overall health.
Those Who Are Obese
Anyone who is obese can benefit from the Mediterranean diet. Obesity can cause all sorts of health issues from cardiovascular disease to breathing issues to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
A Mediterranean diet can lower the risk of all of these things by aiding in weight loss.
Those Who Suffer from Depression
Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in people between the ages of 15 to 29. With depression being a major illness that plagues many people around the world, figuring out ways to reduce the impact is crucial.
One way is through diet, and the Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve the negative effects of depression.
Foods that are heavy in saturated fats, sugars, sodium, refined carbs, and processed ingredients can make depression symptoms worse. However, incorporating more foods that have healthy fats like olive oil and avocado, fresh fish and poultry, and lower sugar levels (or natural levels) like fruit and vegetables can ease the effects of depression.
How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet
It's not too difficult to follow the Mediterranean diet. With just a few tweaks to what you eat and how you are eating, you'll be following this diet in no time!
Foods to Incorporate Into Your Diet
To follow this diet to the best of your ability, you need to be sure that you are incorporating the right foods. So what are they?
You should be eating:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Fish and seafood
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Herbs and spices
These foods are the main sources of nutrition in the Mediterranean diet.
Foods to Enjoy in Moderation
Here are some other foods that you can enjoy in moderation. They are:
These don't need to be cut out of your diet entirely, but you should limit how much you consume.
Foods to Rarely Eat
And of course, there is food that you should rarely eat on this diet. That doesn't mean that you can't, it just means that you should watch out for these foods and make sure they are more of a treat and not a part of your diet.
These foods are:
- Red meat
- Sugary beverages
- Processed meats
- Refined oils
- Added sugars
- Processed foods
That means that you are putting an emphasis on mainly eating food that will nurture your body.
Foods to Eat
So you know you can eat fruits, vegetables, and a few other foods on a daily basis. But which ones exactly?
We address that below.
The main types of fruits that you will consume in the Mediterranean diet are, in fact, Mediterranean fruits. These are:
Vegetables are a large part of what you will eat with this diet. Below are the main ones to consume:
- Kale and spinach
- Brussel sprouts
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Most nuts are part of the Mediterranean diet. These include:
You could also include seeds like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. You can also eat the nuts in the form of nut butters, like almond butter and cashew butter.
Beans are a huge staple of the Mediterranean diet. You can consume chickpeas, white beans, black beans, lentils, and regular peas as a part of this diet.
Most of your carb intake will come from your fruits and vegetables, as well as your whole grains.
This can come in the form of rice, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat bread, and pasta.
Fish and Seafood
Fish and seafood will be your main source of protein. Some good options are salmon, oysters, crab, shrimp, and clams.
Poultry is the main source of "meat" in this diet (since you will be avoiding red meat). You can choose from turkey, chicken, or duck.
If you choose to eat eggs, you can have them from a few different animals. These are:
Remember to eat these in moderation.
Dairy is another food that is eaten in moderation but is still part of the diet. A few examples of what you would eat are yogurt, milk, and cheese.
Herbs and Spices
All herbs and spices are acceptable to eat with the Mediterranean diet. However, cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, basil, mint, and garlic are the most popular for this diet.
Instead of choosing to reach for the canola oil or vegetable oil to put in your foods, you will want to choose healthier fats. These are:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
Butter should not be used in cooking.
Building a Mediterranean Meal Plan
It's not too difficult to plan for a Mediterranean diet. By putting together a meal plan, you can save yourself some time and energy down the road!
- Greek yogurt
- Eggs with sautéed vegetables
Mixing up your breakfasts is a great way to ensure you don't get bored with the food options (even though there are a ton of options!).
- Whole grain sandwich
- Quinoa salad
- Falafel bowl with vegetables
There are many lunch ideas to choose from!
- Salmon with vegetables
- Grilled chicken with sweet potato
- Mediterranean pizza
There are endless options.
Snacking will most likely be inevitable, but that's okay! Here are some healthy ideas:
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Chia pudding
- Handful of nuts
- Piece of fruit
Choosing any of these options is a great snack idea when you are feeling hungry between meals.
Eating out is the most difficult part of the Mediterranean diet since you don't know what is in all of the food. However, if you stick to choosing meals like fish and adding vegetables as a side, you should be good to go!
You can also ask your server to make sure the vegetables and other food are cooked with olive oil instead of butter.
Fostering a Healthier Lifestyle with the Mediterranean Diet
If you're thinking about changing your diet to include something a bit more healthy, the Mediterranean diet is a great way to do that!
It's less strict than some other diets out there, but at the same time promotes heart health and aids in weight loss. It improves sleep and boosts your cognitive abilities.
If you're thinking about following this diet, this guide should help you achieve your goals! This food guide can also help you eat right while you switch your diet over! You'll find plenty of options to choose from.
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