Making the move to a more Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest things you can do for your family.

The Mediterranean Diet: How It Boosts Your Health

You’ve probably heard a lot about the Mediterranean diet, and why it’s a healthy way to eat. But what is it, exactly?

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating habits of people in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea (southern Italy, Greece, Spain).

Scientists studied people who ate this type of diet and discovered that they had lower rates of a host of health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

As a general rule, the Mediterranean is more plant-based than the traditional American diet, featuring plenty of vegetables, beans and legumes, fruits, and natural oils. Here are the specific components that make this diet so good for you.

  • Minimally processed whole grains: wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, and corn
  • Whole fresh fruit and fruit juice with no sugar added 
  • Olive oil as a main source of dietary fat — used regularly in cooking and baking, drizzled over cooked vegetables, as salad dressing, and for dipping bread 
  • Nuts, beans, legumes, and seeds as sources of healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, and fiber 
  • Herbs and spices for flavor rather than salt 
  • Low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt 
  • Shellfish and fish like tuna, herring, and sardines that are high in omega-3 fatty acids 
  • Small portions of low-fat, high-protein meat and poultry  
  • Lots of water
  • Very little added sugar – desserts are fruit-based (sorbet), baked goods are whole grain 
  • Wine — no more than 5 ounces/day for women and 10 ounces/day for men

While moving towards a more Mediterranean way of eating might seem challenging at first, it’s actually a very natural way to eat, similar to the traditional diets of people all over the world. This guide to healthy eating from Kaiser Permanente offers clear guidelines to following this type of healthy diet.

Once you start to make simple changes like swapping olive oil for butter and whole grains for processed white flour, you’ll find these new habits fall easily into place.

Heather D'Eliso Gordon is a Nutrition Health Coach and Sports Dietitian in the Health Education department of Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. A certified specialist in sports dietetics, Heather works with both recreational and competitive athletes to create optimal nutrition plans that support their fitness goals. She also provides nutrition coaching to Kaiser Permanente patients pursuing weight loss goals or coping with diabetes, high cholesterol, celiac disease, and other conditions.