Debating Diets: What is the Mediterranean diet?

Exploring the idea of starting a new diet? While the amount of information available can be overwhelming, it’s possible to find a diet that is safe, suitable and effective for your lifestyle.

Temitope Osinaiya, senior registered dietitian with the Gastroenterology Care Center at Baylor College of Medicine, discusses what you need to know about the Mediterranean diet.

Temitope Osinaiya
How does the Mediterranean diet work?

Unlike a lot of popular diets, the Mediterranean diet isn’t considered a fad diet. The roots of this diet are the dietary practices of many individuals who live in various countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

It encourages protein intake, but mostly in the form of poultry and fish, at least twice per week. Red meats and foods with added sugar are to be consumed on a very minimal basis. Moderate intake of wine is also allowed, but water is the main beverage that is encouraged.

Whole foods, including grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are recommended. The diet also emphasizes healthy fats, such as extra virgin oils, and discourages oils that are high in saturated fat.

How did this diet become popularized?

It became popular globally due to research about how it benefits overall health.

Often times, it is recommended to patients who have heart disease or diabetes. A lot of the antioxidants in vegetables, whole grains and fruits aid with decreasing risk of developing cardiovascular health issues. It’s also great for weight management because it decreases total caloric intake.

Why isn’t this considered a “fad diet?”

The Mediterranean diet doesn’t eliminate food groups. When you follow a diet that cuts out entire food groups without offering substitutions, you run the risk of developing underlying nutrition deficiencies.

It is also more adaptable because there is a variety of choices for meals and it’s relatively safe to follow.

What else should people know before considering the Mediterranean diet?

This diet also promotes daily exercise and physical activity.

Although moderate wine consumption is encouraged, individuals who have liver disease or chronic pancreatitis should talk to their healthcare provider about modifying this aspect of the diet because alcohol may worsen these conditions.

Additional Resources

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See dietitian-approved recipes.

-By Nicole Blanton

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