Mediterranean diet: principles, menus, scientific facts

Cooking according to the principles of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has no contraindications or strict restrictions. And most importantly, the dropped kilograms do not return. Together with the doctor, we find out what his secret is.

How the Mediterranean diet works

The popularity of the Mediterranean diet is easy to explain. Scientists have found that due to the peculiarities of the diet, residents of Mediterranean countries rarely suffer from heart disease and obesity. Although in the usual sense, it is not actually a diet, but a set of healthy eating habits characteristic of Greeks, Italians, Spanish, Moroccans. There are no strict restrictions, rules, or numbers here. It is mainly aimed at teaching the body to eat a balanced diet and improve health.

At the same time, the kilograms go very slowly and smoothly: it may take about six months to see the first results. But there are advantages here. You do not have to starve, which means that the body will not experience stress. This approach allows you to maintain good shape for a long time and avoid future weight gain. Another advantage of this diet is that it can be followed all the time, since it allows you to eat tasty, healthy and varied.

Shrimp salad on the menu of the Mediterranean diet

Foods to include in the diet

The menu of the Mediterranean diet is rich in plant foods, lean fish and seafood. It is balanced and contains all the important substances for the body, making it suitable for almost everyone. You should not try such a diet only in case of individual allergies or intolerance to certain foods. Nice bonus: it is allowed to change the menu according to your individual preferences.

  • Focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. They should form the basis of the diet. With that said, try to prioritize less processed foods, ideally organic.
  • Save red meat and hot dogs for special occasions. They can be included in the menu no more than twice a month. Nor should you get carried away by the chicken and the eggs. But in fish and seafood, you can't limit yourself. With such a diet, it is recommended to eat them every day or at least twice a week.
  • Eat more dairy and low-fat fermented dairy products. The main thing is that they have no sugar, flavors or fillers.
  • Drink plenty of clean, still water. Tea and coffee lovers can enjoy their usual pleasure, but do not add sugar to drinks. Also, if you wish, you can drink a glass of dry red wine a day.
  • The Mediterranean diet has three main meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you're hungry in between, you can have a handful of nuts, berries, Greek yogurt, or fruit.
  • With such a diet, it is not necessary to count calories and control the proportion of macronutrients that enter the body: proteins, fats, carbohydrates. If you decide to dine in a restaurant, opt for seafood or fish. In this case it is convenient to ask them to fry them in olive oil.
  • Don't forget about healthy sleep and physical activity - move at least 30 minutes a day. Moderate exercise will speed up the weight loss process. In addition, followers of the Mediterranean diet pay special attention to communication with their loved ones. Whenever possible, cook and sit down with your family to lift your spirits and relieve stress that often leads to overeating.

Main Product List:

  • Vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, onions, potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, carrots, turnips.
  • Fruits and berries: apples, pears, bananas, oranges, tangerines, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, Walnuts, Macadamia, Hazelnuts, Cashews, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds.
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas.
  • Cereals: whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat bread, durum wheat pasta.
  • Fish and shellfish: salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, shellfish, crabs, mussels.
  • Poultry: chicken, duck, turkey.
  • Eggs: chicken, quail, duck.
  • Dairy products: cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt.
  • Herbs and spices: garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper.
  • Healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocado and avocado oil.

Some expensive products, if necessary, can be replaced with more affordable and familiar ones. So instead of Greek yogurt, you can have regular kefir or homemade yogurt. Whole grains are replaced by buckwheat, barley and oats, and trout or tuna are replaced by herring, which contains the same essential omega-3 fatty acids. White cabbage is a great alternative to broccoli, and seasonal fruits are great for figs and peaches. You can also save on olive oil. For example, unrefined sunflower oil contains more omega-6s, phytosterol, and vitamin E.

Food pyramid, which reflects the general proportion of foods recommended for the Mediterranean diet.

Foods to avoid

The Mediterranean diet has no taboos. However, the consumption of some foods should be reduced, or better yet, completely eliminated. These include white sugar, wheat flour, prepared meals, refined butter, spirits, sodas, fast food, and highly processed foods (chocolate bars, sandwiches, hot dogs, hot dogs). Use dried herbs and spices instead of salt. It is better to leave the usual food gradually, this will help to minimize stress on the body.

Weekly menu option


  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with fresh berries and granola.
  • Lunch: Lentil soup and whole wheat avocado sandwich.
  • Dinner: tuna salad with beans, apple and olive oil.


  • Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins and honey.
  • Lunch: minestrone soup and seafood salad.
  • Dinner: broccoli casserole and natural yogurt.


  • Breakfast: omelette with vegetables, tomato and olives.
  • Lunch: baked fish and bulgur with peas.
  • Dinner: a glass of kefir and a casserole of low-fat cottage cheese.


  • Breakfast: natural yogurt with fruits and nuts.
  • Lunch: wholegrain salmon and avocado sandwich.
  • Dinner: white cabbage stewed with chicken breast.


  • Breakfast: oatmeal with walnuts and honey.
  • Lunch: brown rice with egg, onion and avocado.
  • Dinner: pasta with seafood and a glass of red wine.


  • Breakfast: two boiled eggs and fried vegetables.
  • Lunch: durum wheat spaghetti and grilled beef.
  • Dinner: whole wheat pizza with cheese and vegetables.


  • Breakfast: steamed cheesecakes, fruit and honey.
  • Lunch: fish soup and cucumber and tomato salad.
  • Dinner: vegetable lasagna and a glass of red wine.

The efficacy and benefits of the Mediterranean diet

The main advantage of the diet is the benefits for the body. It is no accident that nutritionists have assigned it the status of one of the safest food systems. This is evidenced by the results of many years of research. Here are some scientifically proven facts about how the Mediterranean diet affects the body.

Fruit porridge for breakfast in the Mediterranean diet

1. Strengthens the heart

For their study, the Spanish scientists invited 7447 volunteers between 55 and 80 years old who have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Participants were offered three diets: a Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on nuts, and a low-fat diet. For the next five years, the specialists monitored the health of the participants.

The results showed that people who followed the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of almost a third in the risk of stroke and heart attack. According to scientists, the diet helps remove "bad" cholesterol from the body and also normalizes blood pressure and sugar levels.

2. Helps in the prevention of diabetes.

The same scientists tried to find out how the Mediterranean diet affects the onset of type 2 diabetes. To do this, they evaluated the state of 418 people who did not have the disease at the beginning of the study. Among those who chose the Mediterranean diet, the probability of developing diabetes was 52% lower than those who followed the low-fat diet.

3. Improves intestinal function

According to a study by an international group of scientists, the Mediterranean diet has a beneficial effect on the intestinal microflora. The specialists monitored the health of 612 people between the ages of 65 and 79 from Poland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France and Italy. The subjects followed a Mediterranean diet for one year. As a result, they had a slower loss of bacterial diversity and an increase in the number of "good" bacteria and beneficial fatty acids. At the same time, the amount of chemicals that cause inflammation and bacteria that participate in the formation of bile acids decreased.

4. Extend life

Cardiologists at the Saint-Etienne University Hospital (France) have found that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of premature death. The study involved 605 people who had suffered a heart attack six months earlier. They were also offered two food options: a low-fat diet and a Mediterranean diet. The researchers monitored the patients' health for four years. In the Mediterranean diet group, the risk of mortality from all causes was 45% lower and from heart disease 70%.

5. Helps to lose weight

With a Mediterranean diet, you can normalize your weight without counting calories. This is the conclusion reached by scientists from the Second University of Naples. The study involved 99 men and 81 women. They were divided into two groups. One had to comply with the recommended rate of protein, carbohydrates and fat, the other, to increase the consumption of whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, olive oil. Two years later, the scientists evaluated the result: in the Mediterranean diet group, weight loss was three times greater.

This is confirmed by the study of Canadian specialists. According to him, the Mediterranean diet is no less effective than the low-carbohydrate diet. With the help of it, you can lose up to 10 kg per year. If you want to speed up your weight loss, calculate your calorie intake and stick to it when you make the menu.

Italian doctors carried out another large study involving 32, 119 volunteers. For almost 12 years, all its participants adhered to the principles of the Mediterranean diet. It turned out that long-term adherence to this diet reduces the risk of weight gain and fat accumulation in the abdomen for the next five years after stopping the diet.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the use of healthy foods, including vegetables.

Doctor's comment

Does the Mediterranean diet have any drawbacks?

The principles of the Mediterranean diet are in line with the WHO recommendations. It is rich in vegetables and fruits, correct complex carbohydrates, healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, complete protein. The restrictions are imposed only on fast carbohydrates, fast food, prepared meals, and foods high in trans fat. By cleaning the diet of such foods, a person who follows the principles of the Mediterranean diet, in the vast majority, begins to lose weight. The process is not fast, but it is the best. Rapid weight loss is detrimental to health.

Since the Mediterranean diet involves the consumption of a large amount of vegetables, fish, seafood, high-quality vegetable oils, the food basket will be more expensive. But it is not worth saving health. Because balanced nutritional nutrition is the key to harmonious development.

Dry red wine is considered one of the most important components of the Mediterranean diet, which explains its benefits. Is really? And how much wine is safe?

As a general rule, no more than 150 ml of wine per day is safe for women and no more than 200 ml for men. It is preferable that this amount is not drunk all at once, but spread throughout the day. Drinking wine is not an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. It can and should be neglected if you have liver or heart problems, or if you are unable to control your alcohol consumption. Rather, the wine is part of a geographical tradition.

Who shouldn't try this diet?

The Mediterranean diet is versatile and has no strict contraindications due to a balanced and varied diet. However, due to the high fat content, this type of diet should be treated with caution in those suffering from diseases of the liver or gastrointestinal tract. You should consult with your doctor in advance. Naturally, it should be limited to people with allergic reactions and intolerances to foods used in the diet.

Some doctors have recommended a Mediterranean diet for the prevention of coronavirus. Is this justified?

To fight viral infections, it is important to take care of your immunity. And the activity of the immune system depends directly on what we eat. If your diet is balanced, rich in vegetables and fruits, consume enough fiber, do not neglect cereals and legumes, get complete proteins and all essential fatty acids, it will be easier for the body to fight infections. The Mediterranean diet meets all these requirements. Therefore, it can be used to prevent not only coronavirus, but also other viral diseases.