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What Is the Mediterranean Diet? Inside the Year's #1 Weight-Loss Plan

Get ready for an overall lifestyle refresh.

If you've always been curious about the hype and health benefits surrounding the Mediterranean diet, look no further. We spoke with an expert and did the research for you so you can consider getting started on this year's #1 weight-loss plan.

Many scoff at the idea of dieting, but the Mediterranean diet is tasty and good for you. This eating plan is chock-full of whole grains, fresh fish, veggies, nuts, and fruits. Your meals won't have much red meat, and you will totally eliminate added sugars and refined foods. The Mediterranean diet is a very wholesome way of eating and living. For those who have followed a strict diet before and had to track calories, carbs, and meals, this will surely be a refreshing change. And the best part? By following the Mediterranean diet, you can lower your risk of many chronic health issues (including type-2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease)—and even your weight! It's really an overall lifestyle refresh. So keep reading to learn more about the MedDiet.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

healthy mediterranean foods avocado kale fruit nuts olive oil fish eggs seeds

Eat This, Not That! spoke with Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, a nutritionist in private practice, and a member of our Medical Expert Board, to paint a more defined picture of the MedDiet and its key principles. Young tells us, "The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole and minimally processed foods. The diet includes consumption of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes, and healthy fats. It limits the consumption of red meat and instead incorporates fish which contains omega-3 fatty acids, occasional poultry, and dairy products including yogurt and unprocessed cheese. The primary source of fat would be olive oil and a variety of herbs and spices used for flavor."

As a whole, the diet emphasizes your overall eating patterns that consist of fresh, seasonal items, rather than having you follow a strict regimen. Essentially, it's a pretty flexible—yet incredibly healthy—way to diet.

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Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet:

What to Eat

kalamata olives

To prepare your shopping list, it's essential to choose plant-based foods, healthy fats, certain dairy products, poultry, and fish. You can enjoy wine, too—just keep your consumption at a moderate level. So the next time you head to the store, make sure you stock up on the following items:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

What to Avoid

As with any diet, there are certain foods you should stay away from on the Mediterranean diet. These include the following:

  • Processed oils
  • Sodium
  • Saturated fats
  • High-sugar foods
  • A high amount of red meat

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Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Most individuals diet because they want to lose weight. But the health benefits derived from shedding extra pounds and sticking with the Mediterranean diet cannot be denied.

This diet is associated with a decreased risk of developing heart disease, which is the #1 cause of death among women and men, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. In addition, research has proven the Mediterranean diet can lower your chances of suffering from a stroke.

If you're looking to get pregnant, this diet may also be a smart choice to consider, after talking it over with your healthcare provider. The MedDiet can improve fertility and be a very nutritious way to eat during pregnancy.

And last but certainly not least, according to a study published in JAMA International Medicine, the MedDiet can lengthen your life. The research shows that those who follow the MedDiet are less likely to suffer early death from cancer, CVD, and all causes.

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The Mediterranean Diet and Weight Loss: Can the MedDiet help you lose weight?

woman stepping on scale

According to Young, the MedDiet can be very effective when it comes to losing weight. She stresses, "It focuses on whole and minimally processed foods which are nutrient-dense and helps increase satiety and reduce overall calorie intake. The foods in the diet include fiber-rich foods which help you feel full longer to maintain a healthy weight and prevent overeating. As the diet entails healthy fats, it limits saturated and trans fats to improve cardiovascular health." In addition, the diet decreases inflammation because the foods you're eating are loaded with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, which are all key to staying in good health.

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Eating Out

Dining out can be a true struggle when you're dieting. But it doesn't have to be when following the Mediterranean diet, as we have some helpful tips to share. There are choices to suit everyone's palate—even at popular restaurant chains. For example, the Greek Salad at Panera Bread is chock-full of fresh vegetables like kalamata olives, romaine lettuce, and pepperoncini. Plus, it's just 400 calories! If you love salmon, head to Applebee's for their Grilled Salmon for a mere 260 calories, or order the Glaze-Dragon Salmon at TGI Fridays, complete with jasmine rice and vegetables. For chicken lovers, Panda Express offers String Bean Chicken Breast that will only set you back 190 calories.

The most challenging part of dieting is getting started. Once you choose a plan you can maintain, consistency is key. The Mediterranean diet is so popular because you can eat many regular foods, making it an incredibly sustainable way to live.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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