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Why the Mediterranean Diet Is So Healthy—And How to Get Started

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet but might be wondering how it works. Here’s what the diet looks like—plus a few recipes to try.

Mediterranean-Bean-Salad-Benefits-Diet

It’s never too late to change your lifestyle habits, and research about the Mediterranean diet proves that. According to a Harvard Medical School study, middle-aged women who adopted the Mediterranean diet were evaluated 15 years after their habit changes. Those who adopted the diet were 40% more likely to live past the age of 70 without physical, mental, or chronic illnesses than those who did not.

So, what is this diet? And what are the specific benefits from adopting it? It’s named the Mediterranean diet because the foods you eat are based on traditional foods from Italy and Greece.

Related: Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad

Foods within the diet

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating vegetables, fruits, seeds, legumes, potatoes, fish, nuts, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, and extra virgin olive oil. Other foods like chicken, yogurt, cheese, and eggs should be eaten sparingly, and red meat only occasionally. Certain foods like soda, processed sugar, or other highly processed foods (e.g., white bread, margarine, hot dogs, white pasta) should be avoided altogether.

Of course, with any healthy life habits, regular exercise is always recommended. No amount of eating healthy can make up for a lack of regular exercise.

Specific benefits

While giving up sugar and most red meat might sound like a big price to pay, keep in mind that this diet can help prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases and lower your risk of cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

Where to start

Need ideas for how to start? Check out this 7-day meal plan (it even includes snacks) for a full week of trying this diet. Otherwise, this is an example of what you might try eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:  

Breakfast: Whip up some Mediterranean scrambled eggs with tomatoes and spinach. Make sure to grease the pan with olive oil if you need it. You could also try this Date Walnut Overnight Oats for something a little sweeter, or grab a plain Greek yogurt and flavor it with fruit and nuts. (Thawed frozen berries work also great for flavoring the yogurt.)

Lunch: Lunch can be tricky, because we usually need something as fast as possible in the middle of the day. Try a piece of whole-grain toast with sliced avocado and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for something quick. You could also go with a simple tuna salad wrapped in lettuce with a side of your favorite vegetables.

Dinner: There are so many great options for dinner! Try grilled salmon or chicken, or a Mediterranean pizza made with whole-wheat crust. There’s yummy lentil soup or we love these chickpea shawarma you can put in a whole-wheat pita.

Related: Eating the Rainbow

Having easy go-to meals is key. Keep a supply of your favorite frozen veggies on days when you don’t have time to prepare fresh produce. With a few changes in your diet, you can get huge rewards from eating a little healthier. Focus on what you can eat and not what you miss eating to make the transition easier.

And while you’re here, check out our other articles on nutrition and diet.   

 

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