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Diet & NutritionLifestyle

What is the Mediterranean Diet, and is it Right for You?

6 Mins read

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The sound of that name is enough to get most of us thinking about exotic foods and beach getaways. But many health enthusiasts don’t know for certain what it means to eat Mediterranean diet recipes.

Like any kind of diet, the Mediterranean food plan will work better for some than it does for others. 

Based on traditional foods common among Italians and Grecians in the 1960s, this diet is all about promoting natural good health, better immunity, and enhanced metabolic function. Studies into Mediterranean diet benefits even show it could help with not just weight loss, but heart attack and stroke prevention too. 

So, is this diet right for you?

Let’s explore some of the benefits, rules, and restrictions, to help you make the right choice. 

What is the Mediterranean Diet: The Basics

Before we explore the potential of the Mediterranean diet pros and cons in-depth, let’s take a closer look at how this meal plan works. There’s no one “right” way to follow this kind of eating – which is actually a positive thing. 

In fact, Circle Changemaker and fitness influencer, Joanna Soh claims there is no “one size fits all” diets and advises people to focus on personalised nutrition instead. You should always adapt your diet to suit your metabolism, energy levels, and even your DNA. If you got a Mediterranean diet from your DNA reports, then this article is perfect for you!

The building blocks of your body dictate how you store, and process food. Adapting your diet to suit your specific needs means it will be more likely to work. 

Though adaptable, the Mediterranean diet starts with some basic rules, such as:

  • You shouldn’t eat: Sugary foods, processed meats, refined grains, and all the other foods that most doctors and dieticians advise you to avoid. 
  • You should eat: Vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, herbs, spices, seafood, and seeds – mostly foods that are considered “healthy”. 

People using the Mediterranean diet will also often avoid eating red meat too often and eat poultry, cheese, yoghurt, and eggs in moderation. 

The Foods in Mediterranean diet Recipes

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Exactly which foods to include in a Mediterranean diet can be a controversial topic. There are variations between different countries in the Mediterranean, but most scientific studies explore Mediterranean diet benefits linked to low consumption of red meats. 

However, while you avoid a lot of red meats and sugars, you do eat fish and seafood twice a week. To boost your metabolism, you’ll also combine your diet with regular exercise. 

To start building your own Mediterranean diet recipes, you’ll want to stock up on:

  • Fruits: Bananas, melons, dates, figs, peaches, strawberries, oranges, and apples
  • Vegetables: Tomatoes, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, and carrots
  • Nuts and seeds: Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas, pulses, peanuts, and chickpeas
  • Tubers: Turnips, sweet potatoes, and potatoes
  • Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, mackerel, shrimp, clams, oysters, etc
  • Whole grains: Whole oats, rye, corn, brown rice, barley, and pasta
  • Herbs and spices: Garlic, rosemary, pepper, cinnamon, basic, nutmeg, etc.

This particular diet believes that whole, single-ingredient foods are often crucial to good health. In this diet, you’ll also be focusing on drinking heavy amounts of water, and the occasional glass of red wine. Red wine is optional and should be avoided if you have alcohol consumption issues. If you need inspiration for Mediterranean meals, the NHS has some great suggestions

Mediterranean Diet Benefits

As mentioned above, a Mediterranean diet can vary depending on the country or region you’re trying to replicate. Some of these diets recommend using snacks like Greek yoghurt and nuts throughout the day to avoid unhealthy snacking, while others focus heavily on the consumption of fish. 

The specific type of diet benefits you encounter will depend on the kind of strategy you follow. However, some studies do indicate some valuable outcomes, such as:

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease:

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Numerous studies showcase the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the heart. One large study in 2013 found that people eating an unrestricted diet with extra-virgin olive oil had a 30% lower risk of heart issues. Similar studies have achieved comparably results in recent years. 

Lower Risk of Stroke:

One often-cited component of the Mediterranean diet is its ability to reduce stroke risk, particularly in women. In a study of around 23,232 people in the UK, researchers found that the better a woman followed a Mediterranean diet, the lower her risk of stroke fell. Researchers did see less of an impact on men. 

Lower Chance of Cognitive Decline:

As a diet known for supporting the heart, the Mediterranean diet could also be valuable in reducing cognitive decline. 

The brain needs a rich blood supply to perform well. A study published in the Frontiers of Nutrition journal found that Mediterranean diets could reduce conversion to Alzheimer’s disease. Other small studies have further found that the diet’s benefits could spread to reducing the risk of dementia and improving overall mental focus. 

Staving off Type 2 Diabetes:

Professionals are always looking for reliable ways to better control conditions like type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that people who followed the Mediterranean diet after four years had a 52% lower chance of type 2 diabetes during the study. 

This was true regardless of whether the participants lost weight or exercised more. A meta-analysis performed after this study also found that the Mediterranean diet improved blood sugar control more than low glycaemic index, low-carb and high-protein diets. 

Reduced Issues with Arthritis

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Support for the common autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, could be another of the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Properties of this food plan, including a high number of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, may help to reduce RA symptoms. According to the national institutes of health research, the diet and consumption of fatty fish could help reduce RA symptoms on top of medication. 

Preventing Cancer: 

Although it’s difficult to know for certain which strategies will effectively stave off cancer for all patients, a Mediterranean diet has some helpful advantages. The contents of this diet follow the meta-analysis of studies in the Nutrients journal, which indicates vegetables, whole grains, and fruits can reduce the risk of cancer-related death. 

Separate studies have also indicated that people eating Mediterranean diets often benefit from a lower risk of certain cancers. For instance, one report found that a diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil led to a 62% lower risk of breast cancer

Reduced Depression:

Eating a Mediterranean diet could even improve your mental health just as much as your physical health. The Mediterranean food plan is often linked to reduced incidences of depression and stress. One study found that people eating this kind of food have a 33% lower risk of depression when compared to “pro-inflammatory” diets. 

A pro-inflammatory diet is one high in processed sugars and meats. Though the study didn’t say why Mediterranean diets affected depression risk, researchers do believe diet will play a significant role in the ongoing treatment of depression. 

Mediterranean Diet Pros and Cons for Weight Loss

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Can a Mediterranean diet help you lose weight? As mentioned above, the human body is a complicated thing. The way one body responds to a diet may not be the same as a response from someone else. This is why genetics and DNA form the foundation for a more effective weight loss strategy.

A genetic test shows you how your body stores and manages things like carbs and fat so you can determine how you need to eat to lose weight. There are plenty of genetic test kits out there, and you can use those test results to determine which exercise routines will be most beneficial to you, or which nutrients you need more of. 

In some cases, the Mediterranean diet can promote weight loss. Mostly, this is due to the diet’s focus on whole, fresh foods (and reduced processed meals). However, it’s not a fast way to drop the points. If you eat more calories, but in different foods, you still won’t lose weight. 

One study found that eating a calorie-unrestricted Mediterranean diet could promote slightly greater weight loss and reduced waist circumference than a low-fat diet. People who added extra-virgin olive oil to their diets appeared to lose the most weight in this study. 

If you combine calorie restriction and Mediterranean diet recipes, the results may be more dramatic. One study found mean weight loss levels were higher among those eating a Mediterranean calorie-restricted diet than those using a low-fat diet. Results were similar to those using a low-carb diet. 

If you’re using Mediterranean diets specifically for weight loss, you’ll need to watch your portions, consider your unique nutritional needs, and avoid unhealthy foods. 

Should You Try the Mediterranean Diet?

A Mediterranean diet could be the ultimate way to improve your eating habits and overcome common issues with your health. However, not everyone will respond the same way to this style of eating. Mediterranean diet recipes could change your life – but your body and DNA will have a significant impact on the results. The same is true for any kind of health and fitness routine. 

If you want to change your life, starting with your diet, you need to understand your body and what it needs. Connect with CircleDNA today to start building the ultimate diet and exercise plan.

Rebekah Carter
18 posts

About author
Rebekah is a committed copywriter and freelance content producer with a history in the technology, marketing, and health sectors. She’s worked with leading brands around the world, and is constantly searching for new ways to expand her knowledge, and skills.
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