The Mediterranean diet has a long-standing reputation as one of the healthiest eating patterns around.
It’s also considered one of the most popular plans among dieters because it’s flexible, rich in flavorful foods, and brimming with health benefits.
In fact, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to increased weight loss, decreased inflammation, and a lower risk of chronic disease.
This article takes a look at the Mediterranean diet, including its benefits, potential drawbacks, foods to eat and avoid, and a sample meal plan.
How our ratings workX
We considered six important standards and assigned a rating to each, with 1 being the lowest rating and 5 being the highest. The Overall Rating for each diet is an average of these ratings.
Weight Change: This rating considers how fast the diet will make you lose or gain weight, whether the weight change can be sustained for 3 months or longer, and whether the diet is a crash diet. A crash diet is a very low-calorie, restrictive diet that comes with lots of health risks. Crash dieting can cause muscle loss, a slowed metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, dizziness, and more. They’re not safe or healthy.
Healthy Eating Habits: This rating considers whether the diet limits entire food groups, and whether it disrupts your daily life with complex, specific requirements on what to eat or how to track your food. It also considers whether the diet focuses on long-term lifestyle changes and encourages habits like eating more whole foods, cooking at home, eating without distractions, etc.
Nutrition Quality: This rating considers whether the diet is based on whole foods rather than processed ones. It also considers whether the diet will cause nutrient deficiencies or a calorie deficiency if you do it for longer than 2 to 3 months. Though you can add vitamin and mineral supplements to any diet, it’s best to focus on getting what you need through a balanced diet.
Whole-Body Health: This rating considers whether the diet sets unrealistic goals, makes exaggerated claims, and promotes an unhealthy relationship with food or appearance. It also considers whether the diet promotes exercise and focuses on overall health rather than just weight. While you may have a weight-related goal you hope to achieve through dieting, it’s important to nourish your body and make sure you’re staying healthy regardless of how you choose to eat.
Sustainability: This rating considers how easy the diet is to follow, whether you can get support for it, and if it can be maintained for 6 to 12 months or longer. It also takes cost into consideration, since some diets require buying premade foods or paying membership fees. Diets that are sustainable are more likely to be healthy in the long term. Yo-yo dieting can contribute to health issues.
Evidence-Based: This rating considers whether there’s evidence to support the diet’s health claims. We review scientific research to see whether a diet has been clinically proven by impartial research.
Overall Rating 4.88
Weight Change 4.8
Whole-Body Health 5.0
Healthy Eating Habits 5.0
Nutrition Quality 5.0
The Mediterranean diet is a style of eating that is based on the traditional diets of Mediterranean countries like Spain, France, Italy, and Greece.
Researchers noticed that people in these countries had lower rates of chronic disease, compared with those in the United States and Northern Europe, and they attributed this to their unique dietary pattern (
Unlike other popular diets, the Mediterranean diet focuses on including certain foods and food groups rather than counting calories or tracking macronutrients.
Healthy fats, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains are a few of the key components of the Mediterranean diet.
On the other hand, less healthy ingredients like red meat, sweets, and processed foods are restricted.
The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern based on the traditional diets of those living in countries like Spain, France, Greece, and Italy.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes mostly nutrient-rich, whole food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains.
Though it focuses primarily on plant foods, other ingredients like poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy can also be enjoyed in moderation.
Meanwhile, processed foods, added sugars, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages should be avoided.
Certain types of alcohol, like red wine, can also be included in moderation but should be limited to no more than one or two servings per day for women and men, respectively.
In addition to making changes to your diet, engaging in regular physical activity is another crucial component of the Mediterranean diet.
Walking, running, bicycling, rowing, playing sports, and lifting weights are just a few examples of healthy physical activities that you can add to your routine.
The Mediterranean diet includes lots of plant-based whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats. Poultry, seafood, and red wine are also permitted in moderation.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked to several health benefits.
Increases weight loss
The Mediterranean diet encourages eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and limits processed foods and added sugars, which are often high in calories.
For this reason, pairing the Mediterranean diet with a healthy lifestyle could promote weight loss.
One review of 5 studies found that the Mediterranean diet was as effective as other popular diets like the low carb diet for weight loss, resulting in up to 22 pounds (10 kg) of weight loss over 1 year (
Likewise, a large study in over 32,000 people showed that long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a decreased risk of gaining weight and belly fat over 5 years (
Improves heart health
Multiple studies have found that following the Mediterranean diet could enhance heart health.
In one study, following a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts or olive oil for 3 months led to significant improvements in cholesterol and systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease (
Similarly, another study observed that following the Mediterranean diet and eating 1 ounce (30 grams) of mixed nuts daily for a year reduced the prevalence of metabolic syndrome by nearly 14% (
What’s more, a review of 41 reports showed that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke in people with diabetes (
Protects against type 2 diabetes
Some research has found that the Mediterranean diet could protect against type 2 diabetes.
For instance, one study in 418 people noted that those who followed a Mediterranean diet were 52% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes over an average of 4 years, compared with a control group (
Also, a study in 901 people with type 2 diabetes showed that long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet was linked to lower levels of blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C, a marker of long-term blood sugar control (
Acute inflammation is a normal process that helps your immune system protect against illness and infection.
The Mediterranean diet may help reduce levels of inflammation, which could help prevent illness.
For example, one study in 598 people found that stricter adherence to the Mediterranean diet was linked to lower levels of several markers of inflammation (
In another study in 66 older adults, following the Mediterranean diet for 3–5 years was associated with decreased markers of inflammation (
Some research suggests that the Mediterranean diet could increase weight loss, improve heart health, decrease inflammation, and protect against type 2 diabetes.
Though the Mediterranean diet may be tied to several health benefits, there are a few downsides to consider.
For starters, moderate amounts of alcohol are permitted as part of the diet.
For example, those who are pregnant or have a family history of addiction should avoid alcohol.
Moreover, given that the Mediterranean diet cuts out many processed and refined foods, some people may find it challenging to follow.
Additionally, some foods that are encouraged on the diet, such as seafood, may be more costly than other sources of protein, which can make it difficult for those on a tight budget.
The Mediterranean diet permits moderate amounts of alcohol, which may not be suitable for everyone. Additionally, some people may find it difficult to follow, and it may be more expensive than other diets.
The Mediterranean diet mostly consists of nutritious, whole food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Meanwhile, processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains should be limited.
Foods to eat
Here are some foods that you can enjoy as part of the Mediterranean diet:
- Fruits: apples, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, melon, blueberries, pears, peaches, apricots
- Vegetables: spinach, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, zucchini, asparagus, kale, potatoes
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, beans, peanuts
- Whole grains: quinoa, couscous, millet, oats, brown rice, buckwheat, whole grain pasta, farro
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds
- Poultry: chicken, turkey, goose, duck
- Seafood: salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, mussels
- Eggs: egg yolks and egg whites
- Dairy: cheese, yogurt, milk
- Healthy fats: olive oil, avocados, olives, avocado oil
- Herbs and spices: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, pepper, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, coriander
- Beverages: water, coffee, tea, red wine (1–2 glasses per day)
Foods to avoid
Here are some foods that you should limit or avoid as part of the Mediterranean diet:
- Processed meats: bacon, salami, sausage, hot dogs
- Refined grains: white bread, crackers, biscuits, white pasta, flour tortillas, white rice
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: juice, soda, energy drinks, sports drinks
- Refined oils: vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil
- Processed foods: fast food, chips, convenience meals, microwave popcorn, pretzels
- Added sugar: table sugar, ice cream, candies, cookies, baked goods, ice cream
Fruits, veggies, healthy fats, whole grains, and minimally processed protein sources can be enjoyed as part of the Mediterranean diet. Processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains should be limited.
Here is a sample 3-day menu for the Mediterranean diet.
- Breakfast: veggie omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms
- Lunch: Greek salad with chicken, feta, olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes
- Dinner: lemon baked cod with broccoli and brown rice
- Breakfast: oatmeal with strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, and cinnamon
- Lunch: grilled chicken with roasted asparagus and buckwheat
- Dinner: whole wheat lasagna with a side salad
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt with chia seeds and sliced bananas
- Lunch: zucchini boats stuffed with ground turkey, quinoa, bell peppers, tomatoes, and marinara sauce
- Dinner: baked salmon with sautéed kale and barley
The menu above provides some ideas for meals that can be included as part of the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating pattern that is based on the traditional diets of those in countries like Spain, France, Italy, and Greece.
The diet encourages nutritious foods like fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and whole grains while limiting processed ingredients and added sugar.
Following a healthy Mediterranean diet can not only help increase weight loss but also enhance heart health, reduce inflammation, and promote better blood sugar control.