Here at Elevated, the eating plan that is probably closest to our hearts – quite literally given its affect on cardiovascular function – is the Mediterranean diet.
The traditional Mediterranean diet refers to the dietary pattern in the Mediterranean olive grove areas at the beginning of the 1960s, during the post-World War II recovery period but before these areas were influenced by fast-food culture.
It’s traditionally characterised by high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, fish and olive oil, low consumption of milk and meat and moderate intake of alcohol (1).
Some of you will love the latter, which is perfect as a key facet of the Mediterranean diet is not only what you eat but how you eat it. Traditionally, those communities excelled in taking time to sit and enjoy a meal with family and friends as a social, communal event, rather than the means to an end that food has become for many of us as we cram a sandwich into our mouths while staring at a computer screen.
The Mediterranean diet is also one of the most studied by scientists over the years, proving beneficial at combatting many of the illnesses and diseases seen today, from the aforementioned heart health, to type-II diabetes and even some cancers.
It’s one of the reasons too why two of the World’s famed Blue Zones, where people have the longest life expectancy, are in the Mediterranean: Ikaria in Greece and Sardinia in Italy.
What does it consist of?
There is no one right way to follow the Mediterranean diet, as there are many countries around the Mediterranean Sea and people in different areas may have eaten different foods – but here are some general guidelines that largely match our thoughts on healthy eating here t Elevated.
What to eat
- Most of the time: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
- In moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt.
- Eat rarely: Red meat.
Foods to avoid
- Added sugar: Pop/soda, sweets/candies, ice cream and table sugar
- Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, white rice
- Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods.
- Refined oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others.
- Processed meat: Processed sausages, hot dogs, hams
- Highly processed foods: Anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” or which looks like it was made in a factory.
Give me some examples please
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, aubergine, courgettes
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams
- Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels
- Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey
- Eggs: Chicken, quail and duck eggs
- Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt
- Herbs and spices: Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper
- Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocadoes and avocado oil.
Scientists are so enamoured with the Mediterranean diet that they use a Mediterranean Diet Score to assess how close people get to it. Want to find out if you’re a Greek God of eating? Take our quiz below.