2.60 Mediterranean Diet (MD)

In this HeartStrong.com video/article, we are going to talk about the Mediterranean diet and how it impacts our overall heart health. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the cooking style of the people who live in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece and Italy. Research has shown that having a diet similar to these countries reduces heart disease risk, cancer risk, Parkinson’s disease risk and Alzheimer’s risk when compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD). One key thing to remember is that w Mediterranean diet has not been show to reverse heart disease. Heart disease does still indeed progress on a Mediterranean diet, just a slower rate compared to the Standard American Diet.

While there are variations in diet between these Mediterranean countries and cultures, the actual “Mediterranean Diet” that we are going to discuss puts them all together. Unlike the USDA Dietary Guidelines, the Mediterranean diet includes a bit more fun, like red wine and a little more fat (unsaturated of course) such as olive oil. Having said that, the mainstay of the Mediterranean diet is actually…whole plant foods. In fact, about 93% of calories should come from whole plant foods with only 7% from meat, seafood, eggs or dairy. Thus, the Mediterranean diet is close to a whole food plant based diet. Again, since this dietary pattern is not cholesterol free which is important, heart disease can still progress.

The Mediterranean Diet consists of the following food groups:

  1. Whole grains and starchy vegetables (i.e. potatoes)
  2. Vegetables (non-starchy)
  3. Fruits
  4. Legumes, nuts and seeds
  5. Limited fish, shellfish and poultry
  6. Fat (olive oil)
  7. Alcohol
  8. Miscellaneous rules

Note that the exact number of servings in each of these groups is determined by how many calories you need to eat daily, which is different from the whole food plant based diet where calories are not considered. Most diets vary between 1600 calories and 2000 calories per day depending on your metabolism, weight and/or weight loss goals (see Obesity and Weight Loss: Basic Concepts).

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