The Mediterranean Diet is a diet plan for people looking for a heart healthy, plant heavy approach to dieting. It’s modeled after foods commonly eaten in Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, and several other countries.
It was greatly inspired by traditional diets held by these countries from how they ate back in the 1940’s and 50’s. You can find many books and online resources that explain in detail how this diet works.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes and claims to provide the following:
Although this diet plan was introduced in 1975 by a husband and wife duo consisting of a chemist and biologist, it took until the 1990’s for there to be any support from the public. Now there’s a lot of information provided from those who live by this diet.
As you’ll see from this review, this diet has many unique features that some claims are beneficial for weight loss and overall health. There are slightly different variations to this diet, as some spokespersons for the diet add that it’s important to have a certain balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates.
Several foods are recommended in specific amounts:
These aren’t strict standards as you can avoid eating certain foods such as dairy and wine, but it’s advised to keep within the general guideline.
The diet also highly advises against the following:
To put it simply, it’s greatly advised to eat more fish, nuts, olive oil, red wine, low fat dairy, and fresh foods. There’s also an emphasis on eating like certain countries such as Greece. It’s advised to eat family style, with meals being shared by a big group.
By eating more wholesome foods that are found in the Mediterranean, this diet is meant to produce healthier benefits for overall health.
Some standards are set in terms of macronutrients and micronutrients:
You can also find online lists of what foods are acceptable under this diet.
Certain foods that can be hard to avoid include eggs, sweets, full fat dairy, and artificial ingredients.
This is why it’s important to read the nutrition facts label to know what is added to your foods.
There’s a reason why this diet is called the Mediterranean Diet, these types of foods are much cheaper in these countries.
Eating more red wine, fish, nuts, and oils can be expensive. It’s also not healthy for all people to drink more wine and to get an increase in fats. Not everybody is made to handle a sudden increase of fats, even if they come from healthy sources.
Since fats have more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, it’s possible to overeat and possibly gain weight. Furthermore, a study by the Cochrane Heart Group showed that those who partook in this diet had unreliable results:
“more trials are needed at look at the effects of the different participants”
Essentially, the study couldn’t conclude whether or not it was their diet or lifestyle choices in terms of exercise and overall health that influence their better health.
For those that can’t afford to keep eating these foods, or those who don’t like seafood, better alternatives exist which are less restrictive.
Another issue with a seafood heavy diet is the potential lack of nutrients and issues with contamination. The FDA adds how seafood:
“contain traces of mercury”
Their recommendations for a limit includes to:
“Eat up to 12 ounces a week”
12 ounces is equal to about just 2 meals a week that contain seafood. The Mediterranean diet advises for people to eat daily servings of seafood. This greatly surpasses the advised limit set forth by the FDA. Since there are no other alternatives to this, it’s impossible to sustain this diet unless you know for a fact the fish you eat has low levels of mercury.
A major problem with this is that contamination with things like lead and mercury are real concerns. The Natural Resources Defense Council mentions that:
“You can’t see, smell or taste mercury contamination”
They advise to avoid many fish strains such as king mackerel, ahi tuna, bigeye tuna, marlin, shark, swordfish, and others. It’s also highly advise to avoid any and all seafood if pregnant, nursing, or if underage. Though body weight also plays a major role in determining your daily limit of seafood.
For some, an alternative might be farm-raised fish. The major problem with this alternative is that color is often added to this. Also, a study published in Science Magazine showed that farm raised fish:
“may pose health risks that detract from the beneficial effects of fish consumption”
These 2 issues in a lack of nutrients, possible contaminations, and unknown amounts can make it hard to sustain the Mediterranean Diet. This is because it greatly reduces the amounts of animal protein such as eggs, meat, and poultry.
In the United States and in other countries this style of dieting would not be affordable or safe to use. It greatly matters the quality of fish you eat, and whether or not you can afford paying for often-expensive groceries.
There’s a lot of talk about going back to the old way of eating. Diets like these emphasize an old way of living that was considered more of a necessity as opposed to a strict choice.
Each Mediterranean country has their own staple foods, which is why they had to eat the foods available to where they were situated. This is why seafood is common, countries like Greece and Italy surround the Mediterranean Sea where there’s plenty of fish.
Eating like this today is costly for most people living in the United States. In fact, many fish today are often farm raised which have fewer nutrients, and some that are wild caught are known to contain high levels of mercury.
This diet can be a healthy addition for some since it emphasizes a more plant based approach to dieting. However, there are better options that are not as expensive or liming to your food selection.
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