What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Last updated: November 2022
Fad diets come and go, making claims about weight loss. This one projects sustained long-term health benefits rather than emphasizing weight loss. The Mediterranean Diet is based on a heart-healthy lifestyle.1 The approach includes eating well, getting plenty of exercise, and having a great outlook on life.
Consuming greater amounts of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, combined with fewer animal-based proteins, leads to achieving results.2 Keeping to the diet reduces the risk of developing heart disease and has been associated with longer life and reduced incidence of developing cancers, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.1
Mediterranean Diet and macular degeneration
If you have macular degeneration, a leading cause of age-related vision loss, this healthy approach to diet and lifestyle may prove beneficial to your overall health and your eyes. Research published in the Journal of Ophthalmology supports earlier findings that diet may play a role in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Reducing the risk for AMD includes eating foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins to promote eye health include tomatoes, kale, spinach, and other leafy vegetables.3
What is it?
Eating plant-based foods, fish, heart-healthy olive oil and nuts, along with moderate drinking of wine and limited eating of meat and dairy, comprise fundamentals of the lifestyle in many Mediterranean countries.
The basic approach of the Mediterranean Diet is about making smart choices around the kinds of fat that you eat. Choosing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like olive oil, instead of saturated or trans fats, can help control cholesterol and promote a healthy weight.2,3
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are another important component of the diet; they are essential nutrients that are important in the prevention and management of heart disease. Foods from the Mediterranean region, including salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Eating these once or twice a week can help fight inflammation and promote brain health.2
What can I eat?
The Mediterranean lifestyle includes eating 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and reducing fatty high cholesterol foods. When creating a Mediterranean diet plan for yourself concentrate on2,3:
- Plant-based foods
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Legumes and nuts
Recommended dietary swaps:
- Olive or Canola oil instead of butter
- Honey instead of sugar
- Herbs and Spices instead of salt
- Extra servings of fruits and vegetables instead of red meat
Making healthy choices doesn’t have to be so hard when you are eating out. Ask for food to be prepared in olive oil rather than butter. Choose sauces made with tomatoes and vegetables rather than butter and cream. Avoid fried foods, processed foods, and fast food.
It is not difficult to maintain the Mediterranean diet once you master foods that are considered part of it.
Try eggs, full-fat Greek yogurt, and oatmeal; are all good breakfast choices. Rotate them as daily breakfast or lunch options. Top the yogurt and oatmeal with different fruits, nuts, or granola. Use olive oil to make eggs, any style you like, fried, scrambled or omelets, paired with fresh assorted vegetables, or tomatoes and onions, and whole grain toast.
This is typically the largest meal of the day. Foods can be portable, and easy to take to work. Try a healthy salad with dark leafy greens topped with fresh or sautéed vegetables. It can be occasionally topped with tuna, sardines, or grilled chicken. Dress salads with a homemade vinaigrette or olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon. Salads made with lentils or tabbouleh are another tasty solution. Top with feta cheese and tomatoes. A sandwich made with whole grain bread or some homemade vegetable soup is also good ways to do lunch.
Nuts and dried fruits, hummus with pita or carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes, and sliced bell peppers are all sensible. Berries, avocado, citrus, low-fat hard cheeses, and some whole grain crackers also work.
Vegetable stews and soups, simply grilled or sautéed fish, chicken or vegetables, should be the main menu items. Grains are also a key part of the Mediterranean diet; try farro, quinoa, couscous, or even make a veggie lasagna.
Water should be the beverage of choice with all meals. Plain coffee and tea are also alright but tell the barista to hold the sugar and caramel flavorings. Red wine in moderation is also an integral part of the Mediterranean diet.
- Vegetables: kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, carrots, onions, broccoli
- Fruits: Apples, pears, oranges, grapes, berries
- Grains: Barley, brown rice, buckwheat. bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal whole-wheat bread, pasta, crackers
- Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, kidney and pinto beans
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, and cashews, sunflower, flax and pumpkin seeds
- Fish: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and other lean white fish
- Dairy: Greek yogurt, feta and other semi-soft or hard cheeses
- Meat: lean cuts of chicken, fish, pork, lamb
Good food, good friends and a good life are the ingredients for a healthy lifestyle.
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