The specialised diet focuses on the traditional menu served in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea; this includes taking influence from France, Greece, Italy and Spain. What ingredients does it include? For starters, there is a high content of vegetables – an excellent source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. Typically low in fat and calories (as long as they’re not roasted or fried in lots of oil), they can help a person maintain a healthy weight.
There is a lot of fruits included in this type of diet too, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Also included in the Mediterranean diet are legumes; examples include:
- Green pea
- Mung bean
- Pigeon pea
- Tonka beans
- Broad bean
- Black-eyed pea
- Lima bean
Heart UK certified that people living along the Mediterranean have less cases of heart disease than people living in the UK.
As well as lots of vegetables, fruits, and legumes, this diet includes nuts, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats include vegetable cooking oil, such as rapeseed or olive oil.
To truly follow a Mediterranean diet, and reap the health rewards, one must cut out (or at least eat very little of) the following:
- Butter, margarine
- White bread, pasta, rice
- Sweet biscuits, cakes
- Chocolate, crisps
- Sausages, burgers, fatty meat
- High fat cheese, cream, milk
Instead, eat more of the following:
- Olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils
- Olive oil and sunflower spreads
- Wholegrain breads, brown pasta, brown rice
- Porridge, oat-based cereals, wheat biscuits, muesli
- Oatcakes, digestives
- Unsalted nuts, dried and fresh fruit
- Lentils, beans, peas
- Lean meat, seafood and oily fish
- Reduced-fat dairy foods, soya and other dairy alternatives.
Heart UK encourages people following the Mediterranean diet to have “at least five portions of fruit, vegetables and pulses every day”.
As a rough guide, one portion is equivalent to a handful in whatever you’re eating.
A quick and easy way to add nuts and seeds into your diet everyday is to add them on top of cereals and desserts, or recipes.
If you’re a meat eater, try to have at least two meat-free days each week.
Furthermore, choose wholegrain options when it comes to bread, pasta, cereals, rice, oats, and pearl barley.
As well as eating oily fish at least once a week, another day eating fish for dinner is recommended by Heart UK.
When it comes to home comfort foods, such as stews, casseroles and soups, add in onions, leeks, tomatoes and garlic.
These ingredients can also be added to sauces; olive oil, rapeseed and sunflower oils can be used as salad dressings.
It’s also helpful to know exactly what you’re putting into your body, so eating from fresh and unprocessed ingredients is highly recommended.