The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern that is based on the culinary history of countries like Greece and Italy that border the Mediterranean Sea. While referred to as the Mediterranean diet, a broader, more encompassing term may be the Mediterranean lifestyle. The health benefits documented are a combination of the food that the people in this region eat as well as many of the lifestyle factors that are a part of these cultures.
When public health experts and researchers took a deep dive and examined the people living in this region, they noticed that they lived longer compared to those in other countries. And these people do not just live longer—they remain active, alert, and engaged well into their later years. Several studies reveal that this lifestyle and eating pattern foster a healthy, strong heart which comes with a reduced risk of heart disease. Additional studies also indicate positive impacts on the brain and cognition.
Many leading health organizations note that the Mediterranean lifestyle promotes health and prevents chronic disease. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet has been rated consistently high in the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of best diets.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
So, you may have heard all of the buzz surrounding this diet, but what actually is this diet? The Mediterranean eating pattern starts with an abundance of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. It also includes beans, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Lean proteins—including beef, lamb, poultry, and fish—are included in smaller amounts than what is typical in the standard American diet.
Which proteins can I eat?
While the Mediterranean style of eating is built around plant-based foods, animal proteins like poultry, lean beef, pork, lamb, and fish are all components of this eating plan. Choose lean cuts of beef—look for meats whose names contain loin and filet as an easy way to identify the leanest cuts. Fish and seafood is also encouraged at least once or twice a week and poultry is permitted, as long as it is not fried.
While “official” guidelines suggest that red meat, like beef, should be limited, recent data shows that including lean and very lean cuts into a Mediterranean-style of eating is still very supportive of heart health.
The cooking method matters too—bake, broil, or grill meat and fish. If you cook on the stovetop, sauteé in olive oil instead of deep-frying.
Greensbury Market has a variety of grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, lamb and pork. Some lean options that will fit into this meal plan include the organic grass-fed filet mignon, organic grass-fed tenderloin tips, and organic grass-fed top sirloin. Additional options include lamb chops, organic boneless pork loin roast, various bison cuts (bison is always a lean choice), and Greensbury Market has seafood choices to make shopping and shipping easy.
Why Should I Follow The Mediterranean Diet?
The research conducted to date on the Mediterranean Diet is strong. Multiple studies have shown how it can help support heart health, brain health, and really our overall health.
Some evidence-based benefits of following the Mediterranean Diet include:
- May reduce your heart disease risk;
- May reduce stroke risk;
- May prevent developing Alzheimer’s disease;
- May help you lose weight;
- May help manage depression symptoms;
Tips for Starting Out
Transitioning your current way of eating to the Mediterranean style can start with some small and simple swaps. Adding components and maintaining consistency over time will help deliver the full benefits of this eating style.
- Add olive oil in place of other oils when cooking, and swap out when you would reach for the butter;
- Fill almost half your plate with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables—be sure to include a variety of colors and add variety—if you always eat zucchini try yellow squash, if you love blueberries add in some raspberries, if you tend to reach for broccoli, try string beans. Spinach—frozen or raw is always a great choice;
- Focus on organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised lean cuts of beef, lamb and pork;
- Include fish once or twice a week—wild-caught whenever possible;
- Enjoy high-quality organic poultry;
- Snack on crunchy walnuts or pistachios instead of chips or pretzels;
- When choosing grains—reach for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and farro;
And don’t forget the bigger picture—incorporate some of these tips to improve personal connections and quality of life:
- Turn off the TV and other electronics when eating;
- Eat slowly—savor the flavors and enjoy meals;
- Decompress daily with deep breathing, meditation, or prayer;
- Celebrate accomplishments with family and friends—play music and dance;
- Eat mindfully—pay attention to hunger cues to begin eating and satiety and fullness cues to know when to stop;
- Enjoy an evening stroll with your partner, child, neighbor, or dog;
- Spend time in nature whenever you can—watch a sunset, breathe in the ocean air, hike through the woods;
- Practice gratitude—notice all that is good in your life and keep a daily list of gratitudes;
The Mediterranean Lifestyle For Overall Health Support
There are many benefits to following the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle—which are also well documented in scientific research. Following the slower-paced lifestyle and incorporating the concepts of the meal plan can lead to big impacts on overall health and well-being.
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian based in Charleston, South Carolina. She earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree in human nutrition and is passionate about helping people achieve their nutrition goals. She currently acts as a consultant, food blogger, and freelance writer for outlets including Eating Well and POPSUGAR. When Lauren isn't working, she is enjoying the outdoor life with her daughter, husband, and rescue-pup.