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Mediterranean Diet Basics

The basics of the Mediterranean diet can be broken into 9 important areas of change for your health:

1. Vegetables - This one's pretty easy. It’s hard to eat too many vegetables...
2. Legumes - Making beans your choice for a starch...
3. Fruits and nuts - Fruit is the perfect snack...
4. Cereals - Whole grains are really good for you...
5. Fish - More fish, less meat...
6. Olive oil - This really means eating more monounsaturated fat...
7. Dairy products - The traditional Mediterranean diet doesn’t have dairy products as a major focus...
8. Meats - Less meat and lean meats...
9. Alcohol - There is good evidence that moderate use of alcohol is good for you...

Need more information? Read about the research!

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The Mediterranean Diet



The Research

This is just a sampling of the dozens of studies we here at Dr. Gourmet have reported on that focus on the Mediterranean Diet. You can find even more by using the search box to the right.

The Mediterranean Diet IS a Diabetic Diet!
Over the years there have been a number of different strategies for diabetic diets. For a long time diabetics were taught to use exchange lists. That method worked well but was cumbersome for a lot of folks. More recently the training has focused on counting carbohydrates at each meal or snack. For diabetics who take insulin being careful with regulating when and what they eat is key and counting carbs works well for them.

Mediterranean Diet, Weight Control, and Weight Loss
When most people think about a diet, they think about weight loss and there are tons of diets out there. Most of them will help you lose weight and the research on losing weight over the last decade has become pretty clear – weight loss is about calories. It is really simple: consume fewer calories and lose weight.

Mediterranean Diet not just for Mediterranean people
There are a lot of misconceptions about the Mediterranean Diet, and of course the biggest one is that you can only eat Greek food. Long-time readers and followers of Dr. Gourmet know that Dr. Gourmet's mission is translating Mediterranean Diet principles for the American (Western) palate. There's another misconception that I run into frequently, however, and it's that because the peoples around the Mediterranean Sea are mostly white (debatable), its benefits haven't been adequately established for non-whites or people who don't live in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

Mediterranean Diet vs. American Heart Association Diet
Eating a Mediterranean diet has clearly been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Numerous studies have been completed, but most have compared the diet to a typical Western diet, as has a study reported in this week's Annals of Internal Medicine (2006:145;1-11). A group of researchers in Spain compared a Mediterranean style diet to a low-fat American Heart Association (AHA) type diet, showing a significant reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and other markers of inflammation associated with heart disease.

Bad News, Good News – Diabetes On The Rise, But There's A Solution
The recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is certainly alarming: it says that the number of Americans with diabetes will double or triple in the next forty years. If they're right, we'll see up to 1 in 3 of all Americans affected. The vast majority of these new cases will be Type 2 diabetes: people whose bodies continue to make insulin for regulating their blood sugars, but their bodies don't use it properly.

The True Cost and Benefit of Eating Healthy
Often when I am discussing eating healthy with my patients they'll say that it is difficult for them because healthy foods cost more. It is a common misperception that eating fresh food means a larger grocery bill each week. This topic has been analyzed in research extensively and it is true that there is a slightly higher cost in consuming a healthy diet than eating a traditional western diet.

Forget You Ever Heard the Words "Low" and "Fat" and "Diet" Together
Recently I saw an article about a chef who has created a low-fat Mediterranean diet. Until now, I really did think that I had heard it all, but this is just so utterly bizarre that I sat stunned, staring at my computer screen for a minute or so. If ever there was a contradiction in terms it is the words "low-fat" combined with "Mediterranean diet." Reading about this chef, it's clear that this is another of those people who simply don't understand anything about nutrition.

Don't panic!; or, Yes, you can still eat red meat
If you follow health news at all, whether that's online or just catching the evening news on television, you've probably heard about this study, just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287). While the media has been making much of the story, acting almost as if eating red meat of any kind will make you drop dead, the truth is that if you've been following Dr. Gourmet and eating a Mediterranean style diet, you know that there's nothing to be so alarmed about.

Mediterranean Diet and Stomach Cancers
We've seen that the Mediterranean Diet can help reduce your risk of death from all causes, from heart disease to stroke to cancers. We also know that eating more fruits and vegetables appears to reduce your risk of oral cancers as well as helping to prevent Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Reducing your intake of red meat may help you avoid certain types of breast cancer. Research on specific types of cancer in relation to the overall Mediterranean diet is a little sparse, however.

Macronutrients vs. Overall Diet: Which is More Important?
It's an axiom among dietitians that "people eat food, not macronutrients." That's one of the reasons that I find fad diets to be so silly: so many of them demonize entire classes of foods ("all oils are bad," "avoid all carbohydrates," "don't eat animal products"). While there are those who may find these diets work for them, the vast majority of people can't live with those diets for the long term.

Exercise for Your Brain
Several years ago I reported on a study that confirmed previous studies looking at the connection between following a Mediterranean style diet and the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease (Bite, 10/18/06). Remember the nine areas of the Mediterranean-style diet? In this study, those whose diet matched the Mediterranean diet in 6 to 9 areas had a 60% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than those whose diet only matched in 1-3 areas.

Mediterranean Diet and Alzheimer's Disease
Being able to reproduce the results of a study is key to verifying any conclusions drawn from research. A number of years ago a group of scientists claimed to have mastered "Cold Fusion," but in followup experiments no one has been able to reproduce such an effect. Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas and his colleagues published a study this year on a group of elderly subjects that indicated eating a Mediterranean style diet resulted in a lower risk of Alzheimer's Disease (Ann Neurol 2006; 59: 912 - 921).

Mediterranean Diet Good for More Than Your Physical Health
A recent study published in the journal Appetite (2011;56:143-147) suggests that a Mediterranean Diet may help improve more than just your body's health - it may help improve your mood.

Following A Mediterranean Diet Reduces Your Risk Of Becoming Obese
I have written extensively on how a Mediterranean style diet can help prevent disease. A group of researchers using information gathered in Spain about dietary patterns looked at how a diet that closely adheres to the Mediterranean patterns affects weight gain (J Nutr 2006;136:2934-2938).

The Mediterranean Diet and Genetics
We know that following the Mediterranean Diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, improve your cholesterol scores, and help you live longer, but what we don't know is WHY that is. Research studies have suggested that the Mediterranean Diet helps to reduce the systemic inflammation which has been identified as a major risk of heart disease, but the results of those studies have been inconsistent at best.

If You Needed Any More Evidence: More on the Mediterranean Diet
Researchers in Italy recently pooled the results of 12 previously-performed studies of the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on people's overall health (BMJ 2008; 337:a1344). These studies included, in total, over 1.5 million people and each study lasted between three and 18 years.

Which is better, The Mediterranean Diet or a Low-Carb Diet?
There is more and more evidence that eating a carbohydrate restricted diet like Atkins can help with weight loss. Research is mixed but low carbohydrate may help better with cholesterol but not quite as well for blood sugar. The fact of the matter is that for most of those eating a Western style diet any change is a change for the better.

The Mediterranean Diet and Death in America
I've reported in the past on studies that investigate the Mediterranean Diet's effects on cholesterol and heart disease. Recently the National Cancer Institute, in partnership with AARP, published the findings of a long term, large scale, prospective study (meaning the subjects were followed through time) on the Mediterranean Diet and its effects on all-cause mortality in the United States (Arch Intern Med 2007; 167(22) 2461-2468).

Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease
A recent study published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases looks at the effects of the Mediterranean Diet as a whole and its effects on the rates of heart disease and stroke in middle-aged adults (2011;21:237-244).

Mediterranean Diet Advantages Not Limited to Normal Weight
A lot of articles about research studies make it sound like overweight or obesity is a direct cause of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. This isn't true. While we know that there is a statistical link between having excess body weight and having heart disease, cancer or diabetes, we still do not fully understand the mechanism by which having body weight above the norm might contribute to or cause these conditions.

Mediterranean Diet and Breast Cancer Risk
We know that following a Mediterranean style diet is linked with lower incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancers. Until recently, few studies have looked specifically at the Mediterranean Diet and the risk of breast cancer. Those studies that have been published have looked at only olive oil and breast cancer, or have taken place in the United States, where most people do not adhere to a Mediterranean Diet.

Mediterranean Diet, lifestyle factors, and the elderly
Researchers in the Department of Dietetics at Harokopio University, in Athens, Greece, evaluated the combined effects of a Mediterranean Diet, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and other factors on the cholesterol levels of persons 65 and over.

A Mediterranean Diet, Pre-Pregnancy, Helps Prevent Birth Defects
Can a woman's diet in the year before her pregnancy affect her risk of having a child with a birth defect? Recently published research found a significant link (Arch Ped Adol Med 2011: DOI:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.185).

The Mediterranean Diet and heart attack survival
We know that the Mediterranean Diet can help prevent cardiovascular disease, but what if you have an acute coronary event anyway?

The Mediterranean Diet and Genetics
We know that following the Mediterranean Diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, improve your cholesterol scores, and help you live longer, but what we don't know is WHY that is. Research studies have suggested that the Mediterranean Diet helps to reduce the systemic inflammation which has been identified as a major risk of heart disease, but the results of those studies have been inconsistent at best.

Just a little olive oil
Olive oil has a well-deserved reputation for helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. Most of that reputation is from research into the Mediterranean Diet, so named because it is a collection of dietary habits followed by those in the region of the Mediterranean Sea.

More interesting Mediterranean Diet research
Eating a Mediterranean diet has clearly been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Numerous studies have been completed, but most have compared the diet to a typical Western diet....

A Mediterranean Diet Won't Make You Fat
You've probably heard that a "Mediterranean Diet" will help you live longer. . . . Recently, though, there's been some concern that although a Mediterranean diet might be good for your heart, it appears to lead to weight gain and obesity.