The Top 10 Foods of the Mediterranean Diet
If you are looking for a healthy and delicious way to eat, the Mediterranean diet is a great option. The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating habits of people from countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain. These countries have some of the lowest rates of heart disease and obesity in the world. Many doctors and scientists attribute this lack of chronic disease to the Mediterranean diet as well as the lifestyle of people in this region which focuses on community and consistent exercise.
Mediterranean diet foods are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. It is no wonder why this diet has been named the top diet for 5 years in a row by US News and Report. In this article, we will discuss the top 10 foods of the Mediterranean diet and why you should be eating them often.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is not like other diets where you must give up all your favorite foods or count every calorie. This way of eating is based on the traditional eating habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The foundation of the diet is plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Extra virgin olive oil is used instead of other unhealthy fats and red meat is only eaten a few times per month. Fish, poultry, and eggs are consumed more frequently, and moderate amounts of dairy are allowed. Wine is also part of the diet but only in moderation.
The focus of the Mediterranean diet is to eat all-natural whole foods and to completely avoid processed foods. Avoiding processed foods in America is exceedingly difficult since American grocery stores are lined with shelves full of processed foods. Mediterranean diet foods are supposed to be all-natural, unprocessed, non-GMO, and organic is possible. Sometimes organic can be expensive so it is not a strict requirement, but it does ensure the foods are free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
There are many benefits associated with following the Mediterranean diet including a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, and type II diabetes. This way of eating has also been shown to improve cognitive function, increase lifespan, and promote weight loss. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats that come with the Mediterranean diet improve both brain and heart health which are the two main organs affected by chronic diseases.
Mediterranean Diet Origins
The origins of the Mediterranean diet can be traced back to the 1960s when a team of American researchers led by Dr. Ancel Keys studied the eating habits of rural populations in Greece, Italy, and Spain. These countries had low rates of heart disease and obesity despite having high-fat diets. The research team concluded that the key to good health was not only about what you ate but how you ate it. They observed that people in these countries ate together as a community and were physically active every day. This way of life along with the healthy foods they consumed is what contributed to their good health.
Extra virgin olive oil is also a staple in every single Mediterranean diet meal. Extra virgin olive oil is known for its many health benefits including reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, and protecting against heart disease. This oil is also rich in antioxidants which are beneficial for brain health and heart health. If you are ready to experience the amazing health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, then here are the 10 foods that you will need to eat consistently.
Top 10 Mediterranean Diet Food List
Clean white fish such as wild salmon and tilapia are the main source of protein recommended for the Mediterranean diet. The real Mediterranean lifestyle typically involves living near the Mediterranean Sea which means fresh seafood is widely available. White fish is full of lean protein, healthy fats from Omega-3, and Vitamin B-6. White fish can be cooked in many ways such as in a salad or paired with whole grains and fresh vegetables. It is always best to get wild-caught white fish, but if budget and availability are a concern then farm-raised fish is fine as well. In America, many people consume red meat for their protein intake, but red meat in abundance can cause issues due to the high amount of saturated fat. Saturated fat leads to inflammation, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is particularly important within the Mediterranean diet. Every single meal should be cooked in olive oil because of the healthy fat that olive oil provides. Heart-healthy fats are essential for reducing blood pressure and reducing triglyceride levels.
Fresh berries are full of vitamins that are important for our bodily function such as Vitamin A, Vitamin K1, Vitamin C, and Manganese. Berries are also full of fiber which helps with healthy digestion and antioxidants which protect your cells from free radicals. This means berries can help improve your gut microbiome as well as protect your cells from disease and cancer. Berries are a major part of the Mediterranean diet so make sure to eat berries often.
Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are important in the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet focuses heavily on plant intake which means leafy greens are something that needs to be eaten daily. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are chock full of Vitamin A, C, and K. Some great ways to eat your leafy greens are in a salad or a smoothie.
Whole grains are another major staple of the Mediterranean diet. A lot of diets in America will try to tell you that carbohydrates are bad for you, but carbohydrates are extremely healthy. The main two things that are different about carbohydrates in the Mediterranean diet are that they have to be made from 100% whole grain and the portion sizes are smaller than what we typically eat in America. For example, Italians eat pizza, pasta, and bread very often but are still thin because they only use whole grain bread and pasta. Their portion sizes are also smaller than a typical American pizza or pasta dish. Some popular and healthy whole grain foods that you can eat on the Mediterranean diet are quinoa, whole grain bread, oatmeal, buckwheat, and farro. You can also find whole grain pasta at grocery stores in America which can be a good option as well.
Greek yogurt is another Mediterranean diet staple that is full of protein and probiotics which help keep your gut microbiome healthy. Greek yogurt has lower sugar levels than regular yogurt and can be eaten straight or in a smoothie. A pro tip for eating Greek yogurt is to add a little honey to it for some natural sweetness.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are another food group that is important to consume in the Mediterranean diet. Nuts and seeds are high in vitamins, antioxidants, healthy fats, and trace minerals. They have also been shown to aid in weight loss as well.
Legumes are an important part of the Mediterranean diet. Legumes are high in fiber and protein which makes them a filling and satisfying food. They can also help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Some popular legumes to eat on the Mediterranean diet are chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and kidney beans.
Fruits and Vegetables
We already mentioned leafy greens and berries, but there are tons of other fresh fruit and vegetables that are perfect for the Mediterranean diet as well such as:
- Bell Peppers
- Sweet Potatoes
Red wine is encouraged in moderation on the Mediterranean diet if you are 21 years or older. Red wine contains antioxidants that can lower inflammation in the body and increase life longevity. It also pairs well with many different Mediterranean diet dishes so make sure to treat yourself to a glass of red wine from time to time.
Starting The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet or any diet in general can be difficult to get started on since you have to learn a new way to shop and cook. Luckily, meal delivery companies like ModifyHealth make it super easy for someone to follow the Mediterranean diet. ModifyHealth has partnered with licensed dietitians to develop over 30+ Mediterranean diet meals that can help you combat your chronic conditions, lose weight, or even live a healthier lifestyle if that is all you are looking for. If you are interested in checking out the menu of fully prepared meals that can be delivered to your home, then click here: Mediterranean Diet Meal Menu