In the 1950s, studies found that adults living in the Mediterranean (Crete, part of Greece, Southern Italy, and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea) were living longer than people in other parts of the world. They also found that the rates of
coronary artery disease
(CAD), some cancers, and other health problems due to diet were low.
Their health did not seem to be because their health services were better. Instead, their dietary patterns were found to be the cause of their good health. These patterns share features that have been linked with low rates of diseases and long lives in many studies done around the world.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
Mediterranean people eat:
Plenty of plant foods:
Breads and cereals
Beans, nuts, and seeds
Olive oil used as a monounsaturated fat source
Low-to-moderate amounts of fish and poultry
Small amounts of red meat
Low-to-moderate amounts of dairy products (mostly cheese and yogurt)
Low-to-moderate amounts of eggs (0 to 4 times per week)
Low-to-moderate amounts of wine (1 to 2 glasses of wine per day), often taken with meals
How it Compares to the American Diet
Americans tend to eat:
Animal products daily, as main source of protein
Mostly white starches
Moderate to low amounts of fruits and veggies
High amounts of saturated and trans fats
Unlike the American diet, the Mediterranean diet is high in fiber and low in saturated fat. It is not low in total fat. But, the types of fats in it are healthy monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil. These fats do not raise cholesterol.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
The pyramid is arranged this way:
Along the base is daily exercise and eating meals with friends and family.
The next layer is food that should be eaten daily, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes and seeds, and herbs and spices.
The layer above has fish and seafood. These should be eaten more often (at least 2 times per week).
The second layer from the top has poultry and eggs. Eat these every 2 days or once per week. Cheese and yogurt are also in this layer, which should be eaten daily to weekly.
The final layer has meats and sweets, which should be eaten less often.
Water and wine are on the side of the pyramid. Drink plenty of water. Limit wine to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
Eating this way may:
Lower the rate of death in people who have had a
Lower the rate of heart attack in people who have heart disease
Mediterranean diet. American Heart Association website. Available at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet. Updated January 9, 2020. Accessed February 12, 2020.
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