How to Eat Well and Stay Healthy the Mediterranean Way

Two Parts:Adopting a Mediterranean Style DietAdopting a Mediterranean Style Lifestyle

The Mediterranean diet is a style of eating that may help you lose weight and improve your health. It's based on the diet typically eaten in countries and regions bordering the Mediterranean sea. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes while featuring smaller proportions of meat, poultry, dairy and sweets. Many studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.[1] Adopting a Mediterranean style diet and lifestyle may help you eat better and stay healthy.

Part 1
Adopting a Mediterranean Style Diet

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    Eat mostly plant-based foods. One of the main components of the Mediterranean diet is eating mostly-plant based foods.[2] These types of foods should make up the majority of your diet.
    • Plant-based foods include a wide variety of foods - some that are high in protein, fiber and many vitamins and minerals.
    • Eat mostly: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. You should include one or more of these food groups at each meal and snack.
    • Nuts and seeds are especially prevalent in the Mediterranean diet. They contain a significant amount of protein, minerals and heart-healthy fats. Include 1–2 tablespoons (14.8–29.6 ml) per serving.
    • Another prevalent plant-based food in the Mediterranean diet are citrus fruits. Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits provide high amounts of Vitamin C, which has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant.[3]
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    Replace butter with heart-healthy oils. Another trademark characteristic of the Mediterranean diet is using a lot of olive oil.[4] It's used both for cooking and for dressing different foods.
    • Butter is sometimes thought to be a less nutritious choice compared to olive oil because it's very high in saturated fat. Some studies have linked higher amounts of saturated fat to heart disease.[5]
    • Olive oil on the other hand is considered a superior and more nutritious type of fat. It's very high in monounsaturated fats which has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease.[6]
    • Even though olive oil is a healthier choice of fat, it's still a fat and should be measured when you're using it. One serving is one teaspoon and you should limit your servings to 2-3 per day.[7]
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    Limit red meat. Red meat consumption is higher in the US compared to many other countries. The Mediterranean diet typically includes red meat only occasionally - maybe once or twice a month.[8]
    • Red meat has been associated with a variety of negative health effects when eaten in large quantities (like heart disease and diabetes). Recently, a studied showed that high quantities of red meat are associated with a shortened life span.[9]
    • Substituting other protein sources (like tofu, beans, nuts or eggs) has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes.[10]
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    Include low-fat dairy products. Another great source of protein found in the Mediterranean diet is from dairy products. Add in a serving or two of these during the day.
    • Low-fat dairy contains a great deal of protein, but these foods also contain high amounts of calcium, vitamin d and potassium.[11]
    • Dairy products can include: yogurt, cheeses, milk or cottage cheese.
    • Measure out the correct serving of dairy foods. Indulge in 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1 oz of cheese or 6 oz of low-fat milk.[12]
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    Eat seafood at least 2 times a week. In addition to consuming many different sources of plant-based proteins, the Mediterranean diet also emphasizes the consumption of fish and shellfish.[13]
    • Most Mediterranean style diets recommend eating fish or shellfish at a minimum of twice per week.[14] Include a 3-4 oz serving of fish or shellfish at dinner.
    • Many fish and shellfish are higher in omega-3 fats. This particular type of fat has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease, blood pressure lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels.[15]
    • Most seafood is a great choice. However, fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are particularly high in heart-healthy fats.
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    Cook with herbs and spices instead of high amounts of salt. Although salt enhances the flavor of your foods, using more herbs and spices like the Mediterranean diet does still adds a lot of flavor to your foods without the added sodium. Try: [16]
    • Basil: This herb is very high in essential oils and phenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties and combat chronic inflammation such as arthritis. It is also high in beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin A which do an exceptional job of protecting the body from free radicals.[17]
    • Marjoram: This plant has been used for a wide variety of ailments including colds, relieving menopause symptoms, stomach cramps and gas.[18]
    • Oregano: This herb has been associated with decreasing respiratory tract disorders, GI disorders, PMS symptoms and urinary tract infections. It is also rich in iron, dietary fiber, calcium, manganese, vitamin c, A, and omega-3 fatty acids.[19]
    • Parsley: This popular herb has been thought to help prevent cancer, diabetes, and improve bone health.[20] It also contains high amounts of Vitamin A, K and C.
    • Sage: This herb may reduce cognitive ailments like Alzheimer’s and dementia in addition to possibly lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels.[21]
    • Thyme: This herb may be effective against fungal infection, particularly those around your toenails. It also may help to reduce acne, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.[22]
    • Mint: This plant may aid digestion, relieve seasonal allergies, prevent the common cold, and can help prevent bacteria growth in your mouth.[23]
    • Rosemary: This herb may boost your immune system and can aid digestion. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the severity of asthma attacks and stimulates the flow of blood to your brain, which combats cognitive issues.[24]
    • Garlic: This spice has been implicated in numerous health benefits like: decreased risk of heart disease and hardening of the arteries, decreasing high cholesterol, decreasing your risk for a heart attack and decreased risk of high blood pressure.[25]
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    Indulge in a glass of wine.[26] Consuming wine in moderation may reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases in addition to improving your HDL (the "good" cholesterol) and protecting your coronary arteries.[27]
    • Many research studies have shown that consuming wine in the right quantities (1 glass or less daily) has its benefits.[28]
    • Wine helps to dilate arteries and enhance the flow of blood in your body. Phenols in wine also help to reduce bad cholesterol. Try drinking one glass of wine per day.[29]
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    Eat smaller portions. The portions typically served in the United States are much larger than necessary. When eaten, these large portions can contribute to excess calorie intake, weight gain and obesity.[30]
    • The Mediterranean diet features smaller portions. These smaller portions can help keep calories low and lead to weight loss or weight maintenance.
    • Measure portions of all foods. You can use a food scale or measuring cups to stay on track. Guesstimating or "eye-balling" portions generally leads to larger portions than necessary.
    • Protein foods should be 3-4 oz per portion, vegetables should be 1 cup or 2 cups of leafy greens, fruit should be 1/2 cup and grains should also be a 1/2 cup per serving.[31]

Part 2
Adopting a Mediterranean Style Lifestyle

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    Exercise regularly. People in the countries bordering the Mediterranean are much more active than people in the US. Their increased activity level is partially why their lifestyle is considered very healthy.[32]
    • Physical activity has been associated with a very large amount of health benefits including: increasing high density lipoprotein (HDL or the good cholesterol) levels, decreasing triglyceride levels, decreasing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, improving arthritis-related pain, and the reduction of some cancers.
    • Try to exercise at least five times a week for 30 minutes during each session. This will help you meet the minimum guideline in the US of doing 150 minutes weekly of physical activity.[33]
    • Take up walking, running, biking, swimming, and hiking to get cardio exercise.
    • You should also try yoga or pilates and weight training exercises that will help to build up your strength and flexibility.
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    Walk and move more throughout the day. People that live in Mediterranean participate in more lifestyle activity compared to people in the US.[34] Being more active throughout the day has been shown to have similar benefits to aerobic activity.[35]
    • Lifestyle activity are those exercises that you incorporate into your daily routine. For example, taking the stairs or mopping the floor are considered lifestyle activities.
    • People in the Mediterranean do a lot of lifestyle activity in their days. For example, they walk to and from destinations or ride their bikes instead of driving. Being active is a key part of their daily routines.
    • Think about your day, work schedule and overall week. Where can you fit in more movement or more steps? Can you ride your bike to work? Can you walk to the pharmacy or grocery store? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Try to add in more steps in your day.
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    Eat mindfully. Another aspect of a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle is that they typically eat more mindfully compared to the rushed lifestyles of the US.[36] Eating mindfully can help you eat less, enjoy your food more and may even help you lose weight.[37]
    • Mindful eating is a style of eating. It's a way of eating that helps you become more aware of the types of foods you're eating, how much you're eating and how fast you're eating.
    • To eat more mindfully, try to: take 20 minutes to eat your meal, remove distractions from your eating area (like TVs or cell phones), take smaller bites, chew more thoroughly and tune into your body's sense of satiation or fullness.
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    Manage stress. It can be difficult to manage chronic, lifestyle stress. However, studies have shown that people who live in the countries bordering the Mediterranean are better at stress management and have lower incidence of heart disease.[38]
    • Try to manage stress as best as you can. Try: listening to music, taking a walk, meditating, doing yoga or talking to a friend or family member.
    • If stress is too difficult to manage or you're unsure on how to start managing stress, consider seeing a life coach or therapist for additional help.


  • Although the Mediterranean diet is though to be safe and appropriate for most people, discuss this with your doctor first.

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Categories: Diet & Lifestyle