The Mediterranean Marvel:  Why This Diet Is The Top Of The Food Chain

The Mediterranean Marvel: Why This Diet Is The Top Of The Food Chain


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With over 8,000 results on PubMed database, alone, and including studies of all kinds,[1] the Mediterranean Diet is no newcomer to all modalities of heatlhcare as a viable method for improved health status.  

With dietary factors being the current leading risk factor for death and disability in the US (more than 700,000 deaths in 2010 attributed to dietary factors), it's no wonder the Mediterranean Diet has become the wonder it has, with its multiple anti-inflammatory mechanisms. [2]

This is true for conditions including [2,5]:

*  Diabetes

*  Cardiovascular disease

*  Hypertension

*  Arthritis


*  Obesity

*  IBD

*  Cancer

*  Alzheimer's

*  Depression

What Is It and Why Does It Work?

The Mediterranean Diet really at core is a version of an anti-inflammatory diet.  Even though it speaks of the "mediterranean" region, it actually is a pattern that can be seen in the diets of many other regions including Indian and Okinawese. [2]  There does not appear to be any contra-indicated populations and because it follows a pattern rather than specific collections of recipes, it can be adapted across the cultural and religious grid.[2]

Several anti-inflammatory mechanisms have been studied including inflammatory TNF and Cox 2 expressions, anti-oxidant effects, insulin and glucose levels, and genetics in relation to inflammation.[2]  It's success has made it a pattern to study to see what is working and why. 

What Foods Are Included and Excluded?

What makes it different is that the fast food, convenience, and processed foods so typical of the Standard American Diet are excluded from the Mediterranean pyramid, which DOES heavily favor veggies, fruits, whole grains, fish, and olive oil.[3]

In fact, what is specifically recommended includes:

*  At least 4 servings of fresh vegetables daily [2]

*  At least 3 servings of fresh fruits daily [2]

*  4 Servings of fish each week [2]

*  Sodas, sweets, processed baked goods and processed meats are discouraged. [2]

*  De-emphasis is placed on red meat, and nuts, lean poultry, and legumes are to be included more regularly. [2,3]

*  Dairy products are eggs are included in the diet, but keep in mind that these are homemade yogurt and cheeses made in artisan quality and retaining the beneficial components that processed dairy products have removed. [3]  A truly free range egg has the more quality and desirable Omega 6 to Omega 3 balance that is beneficial for health as opposed to commercial store bought eggs. [2]

*  Olive oil is key to the Mediterranean Diet with its key noted benefits bing lowered LDL (lousy) cholesterol, improved lipid panels, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, lowered blood pressure, and lowered biomarkers of inflammation. [2]

It is noted that even if an individual includes onlyTWO of the components of the diet, the changes make a noticeable difference. [2]

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Potential Challenges If You're Considering the Mediterranean Diet

Controversially, 45% of calories come from fat on the Mediterranean Diet, though the fats fresh, natural fats and are typically from the nuts and fish and olive oil, rather than the hydrogenated oils and fried fats known in regular consumption to Americans.[2]   This can provide a varied view when it comes to practitioner support, even though it has become a standard in many arenas, some providers and participants still doubt the quantity of fats included. 

While it is not as difficult of a diet to follow as others, changing the diet away from the conventional status quo is not without its challenges.  Avoiding convenience and processed foods can be retrictive at times, but one of the tenets for success is that it is not set up as a diet plan, but as a sustainable lifestyle pattern of eating. [4] 

Here's how you can plan ahead to be successful:

1.  Eat at home

2.  When you are eating out, choose a fish, lean poultry, or rarely a red meat option.  Start with the side salad instead of bread basket and have 2 servings of vegetables.  Skip the dessert.

3.  Plan ahead when travelling and bring lots of options for cut up veggies, fruits, and nuts to grab on the go.  Better options are increasingly available when it comes to grin free nut bars and dried fruits.  

4. Use oil instead of dressing on salad.

5.  Munch on fresh juicy fruit varieties instead of sweets and baked goods. 

6.  Join a dietary meals like eMeals, which you can download to your phone and select a Mediterranean specific option.  OR take advantage of the many meal delivery/grocery delivery service options that offer Mediterranean patterned meals. 

Do these simple thing and you'll find that the Mediterranean Diet is simple, doable, and very beneficial to your improving health status.


1  PubMed.

2  Rakel, D., & University of Wisconsin Medical School Wisconsin David Rakel. (2018). Integrative Medicine (4th ed.). W B Saunders Company.

3  Ross, K. (n.d.). Mediterranean Diet [PDF]. SCNM.

4  Dernini S, Berry EM, Serra-Majem L, et al. Med Diet 4.0: the Mediterranean diet with four sustainable benefits. Public Health Nutr. 2017;20(7):1322-1330. doi:10.1017/S1368980016003177

5  Dernini S, Berry EM, Serra-Majem L, et al. Med Diet 4.0: the Mediterranean diet with four sustainable benefits. Public Health Nutr. 2017;20(7):1322-1330. doi:10.1017/S1368980016003177


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