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Review: The Mediterranean Diet

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By Katie Lewin

 

Always dreamed of the hillside villages and sparkling waters of Greece but never got around to jetting off to Athens? The Mediterranean Diet might be the next best thing. This recently popularized eating plan borrows from the nutritional wisdom of the 16 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and emphasizes the consumption of foods commonly found in the region. Processed foods are heavily discouraged, and moderate intake of wine is recommended. Other vital elements of the diet (and lifestyle) are daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and fostering a deep appreciation for the pleasures of eating and savoring healthy foods. 

The Theory: The diet is based on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece and Italy in the 1960s, when chronic disease rates among those populations were at their lowest and adult life expectancy was among the highest. The diet consists of mainly fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, small amounts of dairy and red wine, which prove to be much more likely to lead to lifelong good health than a “modernized” diet of mostly animal meat and processed foods. 

Pros: This diet’s inclusion of foods low in sugar and rich in heart-healthy fats make it a smart choice, and it’s emphasis on fruits and vegetables make for some serious antioxidant consumption. Also, focusing on savoring your food and eating with family and friends are healthy habits that keep on giving.

Cons: Calcium deficiency is a concern for this meal plan, because of the limited dairy. So is overindulging with wine, which is a great source of antioxidants if you limit yourself to one to two glasses per day. Its lack of exact serving amounts and precise calorie totals might frustrate dieters who prefer more precise regulation. 

Bottom Line:  More a lifestyle modification than a crash diet, the Mediterranean Diet is a sustainable choice. This way of eating is best for people who are more committed to lowering their risk of weight-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes, rather than shedding piles of pounds in a short period of time. People who follow this diet aren’t generally the ones starring in dramatic before and after weight loss photos, but they are the ones who get to ciao down on a host of meals that are as tasty and filling as they are healthy. 

 

Published January 5, 2015. 


Katie Lewin is a Bay Area-based health and lifestyle writer. 


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