The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied nutrition plans.
It’s based on the traditional foods that people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea ate about 50 years ago. Back then, in the mid 20th century, researchers noted that people in Spain, Greece, and Italy lived longer and healthier than Americans. And they had lower levels of heart disease. So, they set out to find what was so healthy in this part of the world. And the research keeps coming in. And it’s pretty impressive.
Eating a Mediterranean diet is linked with:
- Less overweight and obesity (it’s better than low-fat diets)
- Better blood sugar control (for diabetes and metabolic syndrome)
- Lower risk of heart disease and stroke (and blood markers like cholesterol and triglycerides)
- Reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
- Fewer cancers (breast & colorectal)
- Less premature death
It’s pretty clear that this way of eating has a positive effect on your overall whole-body health. And when it comes to Women’s health, and specifically fertility, following the Mediterranean diet has been shown to:
- Increase folate and vitamin B6 in blood and follicular fluid levels, with a 40% increase in the possibility of pregnancy in couples undergoing in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection treatment increases the chance of pregnancy. (PMID: 20189169)
- Greater adherence to the Mediterranean-type dietary pattern may enhanced fertility in women, aged 20-45 years, reporting difficulty getting pregnant. (PMID: 21943725)
The Med diet also can influence your gut microbiome! The plan is rich in plant fibers from veggies, fruits, beans, and nuts. When you feed your good gut bacteria lots of fiber (and fiber variety), the good bugs diversify and populate! Could this be by the diet is so helpful for multiple areas of health? (See post on Why All Disease Begins in the Gut)
Additionally, this “diet” is not really meant to be something you start and stop. It’s a plan that can truly be followed for a lifetime and is not meant to be overly restrictive.
Now, what do you eat?
What to eat and drink on a Mediterranean diet
Consume foods like:
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole unprocessed grains
- Fish and seafood
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Herbs and spices
These foods are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber.
The go-to beverage for the Mediterranean diet is water. Coffee and tea are also regularly consumed (without the addition of lots of cream and/or sugar). And yes, red wine (about 1 glass per day) is very commonly enjoyed.
Some foods and drinks that are eaten in moderation include:
- Cheese and yogurt
Red meat, unfermented dairy (e.g., milk), butter, and salt are rarely consumed, if at all.
What to ditch on a Mediterranean diet
There are many foods and drinks that are not part of the Mediterranean diet. Not surprisingly, this includes many highly processed and unhealthy foods like:
- Processed meats
- Sauces and gravies
- Sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices
- Refined grains and oils (including hydrogenated oils)
- Too much salt
- Added sugars
The Mediterranean diet also incorporates lifestyle factors that can have an influence over risk for disease. These factors include: exercise, social interaction and eating with others, and stress management.
The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy way of eating. It is a whole-foods diet based mainly focused on plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains). It also contains fish, olive oil, and herbs and spices. The Mediterranean diet is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber; all of which are health-boosting from your head to your heart… and the rest of your body.
Don’t forget that health involves more than just food. The Mediterranean lifestyle also incorporates regular exercise, eating with people whom you care about, and overall enjoyment of life.