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The Mediterranean Diet and MD: Finding Healthier Food Options with Ease

One way to help provide optimal health to our eyes is through our diet. Adopting the Mediterranean diet is a great way to do this. Simply put, the Mediterranean diet is a plant and fish/poultry based diet that consists of the basic, traditional food people would eat in Greece and Italy. When mentioning Italian Cuisine, I, unfortunately, do not mean pizza and lasagna. Instead, think leafy greens, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts.

Mediterranean diet and macular degeneration

Research shows that people who stick to a Mediterranean diet have a greatly reduced risk of advanced AMD. Specifically, the abundance of polyphenol (micronutrients that we get through plant-based foods) and the plethora of ‘healthy fats’ that are found in olive oils, fruits and nuts in classic Mediterranean foods, have been linked to lowering inflammation and providing antioxidants to our bodies.1

Positive overall health

What does this mean for us? Lowering inflammation = lowering AMD related eye damage. In addition, with the Mediterranean diet being high in fiber nutrient foods, people who stick to this diet have a healthier gut and more positive overall health…sign me up!

What to eat

When following the Mediterranean diet, you’ll want to primarily eat fresh plant-based foods that pack a lot of flavor. The Mediterranean diet uses healthy fats, such as olive oil, and herbs and spices to flavor meals instead of butter and salt. Eating lean meats, such as fish and poultry, is also preferred, limiting red meats to just a few times a month or less. Many Mediterranean menus also include red wine, which is, of course, optional, and is believed to be ‘heart healthy’ when used in moderation.

Looking for a simple Mediterranean sample menu? Find one here. Feeling especially adventurous with your culinary skills? Go for it!

Healthy diet vs. dieting

A change in diet is much different than dieting. We’ve all heard the benefits of healthy eating, but let’s be honest, it’s not always easy to implement. Sometimes we don’t understand how or what to change, and we can struggle with feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. Being aware of what you put into your body and the benefits specific foods bring is a great place to begin. Do you know that kale, for instance, is something really healthy to eat but you don’t like the taste? That’s okay! There are so many options out there for us to try.

Food for the soul

I personally love a good salad. You know, the kind with creamy ranch dressing, bacon bits, and cheese? And, I must say, I am a huge fan of pizza and lasagna. However, along my MD journey, I’m really starting to see food as my daily ‘medicine’ since this disease doesn’t have the kind that comes in a bottle. That isn’t to say that I never stray or don’t indulge, celebrate with food, or treat myself. I’ll be the first to admit that some food is good for your body, while some is good for your soul.

Eye healthy meals

I’m also learning that small changes in health can make a big difference. Through my new adventure with MD and seeking ‘eye healthy’ options, I’ve really found some nutrient-packed and delicious meals, mainly salads. I started small, implementing the Mediterranean diet for just one meal a day, my lunch at work. I found that for me, work lunches are the easiest meal to make ‘healthy’ because I only get to eat what I bring. I can’t eat a bag of chips if I don’t have them with me. As an added bonus, salads are super easy to prepare ahead of time for a quick grab-and-go in the mornings!

Quick and easy salad

My easy ‘go-to’ salad is fresh spinach thrown into a reusable container with chopped yellow and orange bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, green olives and baby carrots thrown in a bag. I take a side of an oil-based dressing as well. If I’m feeling really adventurous, I’ll add grilled chicken leftovers or pack a bag of nuts, raisins or sunflower seeds to toss on top; easy, healthy, delicious! I think it’s important to note here that if eating fresh vegetables is only an option for you when covered in ranch, bacon bits, and cheese, then that’s more than okay too! Get your fresh veggies in your bodies however you can!

Lifestyle changes

Quick Tip: It’s important to note that changing your diet alone cannot have as great of a benefit to eye health as a lifestyle change that includes regular exercise. See a previous article I wrote on this topic Why People With MD Don’t Just Exercise to “Get Skinny.” Just changing one small thing about your diet or lifestyle when possible can help your health in big ways! Can you eliminate just one soda per day and switch it for a bottle of water? How about parking at the back of the parking lot and taking a few extra steps on your way into work?

If you find a great Mediterranean recipe you love, please share in the comments below!

P.S. I was drinking a diet soda while writing this article because I’m human. My son thinks that’s funny considering the topic. He promised not to tell.

Eat well, live well,

Andrea Junge

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MacularDegeneration.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Merle, B., Colijn, J., Cougnard-Grégoire, A., de Koning-Backus, A., Delyfer, M., Kiefte-de Jong, J., Meester-Smoor, M., Féart, C., Verzijden, T., Samieri, C., Franco, O., Korobelnik, J., Klaver, C., Delcourt, C., Ajana, S., Arango-Gonzalez, B., Armento, A., Arndt, V., Bhatia, V., Bhattacharya, S., Biarnés, M., Borrell, A., Bühren, S., Calado, S., Colijn, J., Cougnard-Grégoire, A., Dammeier, S., de Jong, E., De la Cerda, B., Delcourt, C., den Hollander, A., Diaz-Corrales, F., Diether, S., Emri, E., Endermann, T., Ferraro, L., Garcia, M., Heesterbeek, T., Honisch, S., Hoyng, C., Kersten, E., Kilger, E., Klaver, C., Langen, H., Lengyel, I., Luthert, P., Maugeais, C., Meester-Smoor, M., Merle, B., Monés, J., Nogoceke, E., Peto, T., Pool, F., Rodríguez, E., Ueffing, M., Ulrich Bartz-Schmidt, K., van Leeuwen, E., Verzijden, T., Zumbansen, M. and Vasiliev, V. (2019). Mediterranean Diet and Incidence of Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Ophthalmology, 126(3), pp.381-390.

Comments

  • shelby-comito moderator
    6 months ago

    Hahah I love that you were drinking a diet soda while writing this, @andreajunge! I think eating well 90% of the time while letting yourself indulge 10% of the time is really key (or sometimes it’s 80%-20% for me, let’s be real). My mom always told me that my meals should be really colorful, which I’ve always taken to heart and I think aligns with the heart of the Mediterranean Diet. Thanks so much for sharing this!! – Shelby, MacularDegeneration.net Team Member

  • Andrea Junge moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you, @shelby-comito! Our diet is so very important to our eyes (everyone’s is)! But sometimes it’s harder to ‘see’ or ‘feel’ the results of healthy eating, unlike exercise where we can feel how hard we’ve worked, so we must be doing something right! I just had the colorful foods conversation with my kiddos recently, they love foods that aren’t colorful…chips, bread, cereal, pasta! And bright orange cheese doesn’t count :). Your mom seems very wise! -Andrea, MacularDegeneration.net Team Member

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