The Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular eating patterns. High in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, it is not only used as a weight loss strategy but as a way to reduce inflammation in your body.
One of the things I like about the Mediterranean diet is that there are no strict rules. While there are specific guidelines, you can adjust them based on your preferences and goals.
Thanks to the high intake of high-quality foods full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, you can reduce inflammation by following this meal plan.
In this article, I will explore everything related to the Mediterranean diet. What are other benefits besides a reduction in inflammation? Foods to eat and to limit. How to eat out while following this type of eating plan? Finally, a one-day sample menu to help you get started.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet uses foods traditionally found in the Mediterranean region in countries such as Greece, France, Spain, and Italy.
Several studies have shown that people around this area seem to have a low weight and a decreased risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and reduced inflammation (1).
The Mediterranean Diet is often considered the best option for weight loss, chronic illness management, and reducing inflammation.
There are no restrictions when it comes to this type of eating. However, some food is encouraged, and others are best to avoid. But, more on that later in the article.
There are several benefits of doing the Mediterranean diet.
One of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet is that it decreases the risk of heart disease.
Thanks to its low intake of saturated fats, and its high content of healthier fats (unsaturated), studies have shown that it can protect your heart (2).
Additionally, since you include whole grains, your increase your fiber intake, a good fiber intake is said to be 20 to 30 grams per day (3).
Research shows that good fiber consumption can decrease cholesterol levels, reducing heart disease risk (4).
You can better manage your glucose levels thanks to its high fiber and antioxidant content.
Fiber prevents your glucose levels from spiking.
Research shows that following a Mediterranean diet can decrease your A1c levels by 1.3% (5). While many factors influence this, one of the theories is that high levels of healthy fats (like olive oil) help reduce inflammation in your body, leading to better glucose control.
Finally, one benefit of a Mediterranean diet is that it improves your cognitive function (mental process).
In a study performed on 512 individuals, when they stuck to a Mediterranean style eating, they saw an improvement in their memory and cognitive function (6).
Reduction in Inflammation
Finally, one of the most significant benefits of following this eating pattern is reducing inflammation markers.
Research shows that a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and olive oil can help decrease inflammation (7).
One way this contributes to reducing inflammation is by improving your gut microbiome. The presence of a certain type of bacteria in your gut can increase certain inflammatory markers (8).
Foods to eat
While there is no strict guide on following the Mediterranean diet, there are certain foods that are encouraged to have and other ones to avoid.
First, let’s talk about the foods you will include in a Mediterranean diet.
- Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- Whole grains (oats, brown rice, whole grain bread, buckwheat)
- Diary (low-fat)
- Healthy fats (avocado, olives, and olive oil)
When you include fruits and vegetables, make sure to include variety. Don’t focus on having only one type of vegetable. The more colors you add to your diet, the more nutrients you get, decreasing your inflammation.
On top of the foods you include, it is encouraged to exercise regularly. Doing 150 minutes of exercise per week can bring several benefits to your health.
You can include a small amount of alcohol, especially red wine since it is high in antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation. However, make sure not to consume more than one glass per day.
Coffee and tea can also be included in the diet without adding cream or sugar.
Foods to limit
Processed foods are to be limited to the Mediterranean diet.
Foods high in sugars like pastries, cakes, candy, and sweets need to be reduced to decrease the risk of diabetes.
Other foods high in refined grains like white pasta, tortillas, and chips should also be consumed in moderation.
Fried foods are high in vegetable oils and trans fats, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Finally, processed meats like sausages, deli meat, and beef jerky should be limited to avoid adding too many additives and sodium to your diet.
One of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet is that it is easy to find fish when eating out.
When going out, choose a dish that offers fish, seafood, or chicken to avoid any high-fat meat cuts. Add a side dish of vegetables (hopefully half your plate), and ask if they can cook it with olive oil to add your dose of healthy fats.
Have a glass of red wine or a glass of water.
Sample one-day menu
Here, you can find a sample menu of what one day in the Mediterranean diet looks like. You can modify it according to your preferences and available foods.
- Oatmeal with low-fat Greek yogurt and crushed almonds.
- A couple of hard-boiled eggs with carrot sticks and olive oil.
- Quinoa salad with grilled vegetables and salmon.
- Dinner. Grilled chicken with brown rice and a side salad.
The bottom line
Following the Mediterranean diet can bring several health benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease, better glucose control, improved cognitive functions, and a reduction in inflammation.
While there are no established guidelines on this eating pattern, it focuses on including whole grain foods, lean meats, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, vegetables, and fruits. Processed foods should be avoided to prevent adding inflammatory foods and extra sodium.