Mediterranean Diet

What Are the Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet reduces your risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer and may improve gut health. It also promotes longevity and preserves cognitive function as you age.

It’s important to talk with your doctor before starting a new eating plan like the Mediterranean Diet. A registered dietitian can help you determine if it’s right for you.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is central to a Mediterranean diet. It contains monounsaturated fat, which may help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. It’s also rich in antioxidants, which can help protect your cells. Add olive oil to salads, or drizzle over grilled veggies or whole grains.

But don’t overdo it: While the healthy fats in olive oil may benefit heart health, too much can lead to weight gain. Stick with a serving of about two tablespoons per day.

A 2019 study found that people who follow a Mediterranean diet with regular consumption of olive oil, nuts, and fish were more likely to have healthier blood pressure. That’s because a diet rich in these foods can improve your cellular response to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

In a PREDIMED study, researchers split participants into three groups: One group received free extra-virgin olive oil and guidance on how much to consume; another was given mixed nuts; and the third had no olive or nut intake. Over 12 years, those in the first group had a 30 percent lower risk of heart events than the other groups.

Eating a Mediterranean diet can also reduce your chance of stroke in women, according to a 2021 study. That’s because the eating pattern limits red meat, high-fat dairy, and processed foods. It also includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, and moderates alcohol intake.

Olive Oil


The allium family of foods, including leeks and garlic, is well represented in the Mediterranean diet. These vegetables offer a wide array of health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties, and may reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and other health conditions.

The diet emphasizes fresh, wholesome produce in abundance. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that help maintain a healthy weight and promote good health. The diet also contains whole grains, especially a variety of whole wheat, barley, bulgur, farro, millet, oats, quinoa, rice and rye, which provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Fatty fish are recommended twice a week, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent cardiovascular disease. The diet limits both saturated fat and trans fat, which can raise LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of coronary artery disease.

This diet also encourages the occasional glass of wine with dinner, but individuals should discuss whether this is right for them. The American Heart Association recommends that women drink a maximum of one five-ounce glass per day and men consume two glasses. Drinking alcohol is not recommended for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people with certain medical conditions should talk to their doctors before starting to drink.

Wild Salmon

The Mediterranean diet is rich in protein and healthy fats, which help protect your heart. The diet also contains plenty of fiber, which digests slowly and prevents large swings in your blood sugar levels.

Seafood is a mainstay in the Mediterranean diet. It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and can improve your memory. It’s also a great source of lean protein, which helps build and repair muscles.

The Mediterranean diet limits unhealthy fats, especially saturated and trans fats. Instead, it includes healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, as well as other foods that provide healthy unsaturated fats. The diet also restricts red meat and sugary beverages and limits added salt.

Several studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s. The diet may even help you lose weight. But, it isn’t a quick fix. Instead, think of it as a lifestyle change that will support your health and longevity.

A Mediterranean-style diet can be a good fit for anyone, but it’s important to remember that everyone responds differently to the food they eat. For this reason, a personalized approach to eating is often better. ZOE’s at-home test shows how your body responds to different foods, and our team of dietitians creates a nutrition plan based on your results. Try it for free!


A Mediterranean diet may help you enjoy a longer life by keeping your heart healthy, according to research. Unlike other popular diets, this approach focuses on general patterns of eating rather than specific foods and doesn’t require you to count calories or fat grams. In fact, it encourages you to eat in moderation and enjoy food and drink with friends and family. The eating plan also emphasizes plant-based options like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes and olive oil while limiting red meat and sugary beverages.

The diet may also help keep your brain sharp, according to a recent study that found those who closely followed the eating pattern were at a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease than those who did not. The study, which included brain scans of participants, found that people who ate the diet tended to have fewer plaque deposits and used their energy differently in the brain.

Whether dried or fresh, oregano is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. The herb, which was cultivated by the Greek goddess Aphrodite in her Mount Olympus garden, is said to promote love and joy. It’s often used to add flavor to pizza, and it pairs well with many other dishes and flavors. You can use it to top roasted vegetables or add it to a plant-based taco salad. You can also add it to a bowl of beans or mash it into hummus.


A Mediterranean diet is rich in protein-rich legumes, such as beans and lentils. These are excellent sources of fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrates, and iron. Including these regularly can help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The Mediterranean diet limits saturated fat and replaces it with unsaturated fat, especially monounsaturated fat such as olive oil. This type of fat is healthy because it doesn’t raise LDL (bad) cholesterol the way saturated fat does and may even help reduce plaque buildup in arteries, according to several studies.

Fruit is an important part of a Mediterranean diet. Whole fresh fruits provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. This diet also encourages the consumption of no-sugar-added fruit juices. However, juices offer only some of the same nutrition benefits as whole fruits and attention to portion control is important.

A Mediterranean diet also allows small amounts of wine with meals. This is recommended for heart health and may offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to recent studies. If you plan on adding a few glasses of wine to your daily routine, talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you.


The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant foods and herbs, which supply a broad range of health-promoting antioxidants. They also reduce the need for salt and fat in cooking. Popular herbs include basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Incorporate them into marinades, pasta sauces, and soups.

The diet limits saturated and trans fats (found in red processed meats, dark poultry meat, full-fat dairy, butter, and coconut and palm oils), and instead focuses on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help protect against heart disease and depression.

In addition, a Mediterranean diet includes plenty of vegetables and whole grains. Eating more of these whole foods promotes a feeling of satiety, which can help prevent overeating and lead to healthy weight management.

The Mediterranean diet also encourages eating a variety of fish, such as salmon, and avoiding red meats and processed meats. It also recommends three servings of fruits per week and limiting alcohol to two five-ounce glasses for women and one for men.


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