How does Mediterranean Diet work?


DO’S & DON’TS

Do: Load up on whole grains and veggies.


Because this is an eating pattern – not a structured diet – you’re on your own to figure out how many calories you should eat to lose or maintain your weight, what you’ll do to stay active and how you’ll shape your Mediterranean menu. The Mediterranean diet pyramid should help get you started. The pyramid emphasizes eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, while saving sweets and red meat for special occasions. Top it off with a splash of red wine (if you want), remember to stay physically active and you’re set.

While certainly not required, a glass a day for women and two a day for men is fine if your doctor says so. Red wine has gotten a boost because it contains resveratrol, a compound that seems to add years to life – but you’d have to drink hundreds or thousands of glasses to get enough resveratrol to possibly make a difference.

WHAT CAN I EAT?
A stack of pancakes with blueberries.

How much does Mediterranean Diet cost?

The cost of the Mediterranean diet, like most aspects of the diet, depends on how you shape it. While some ingredients (olive oil, nuts, fish and fresh produce in particular) can be expensive, you can find ways to keep the tab reasonable – especially if you’re replacing red meats and meals with plant-based home cooking, some research suggests. Your shopping choices matter, too. Can’t spring for the $50 bottle of wine? Grab one for $15 instead. And snag whatever veggies are on sale that day, rather than the $3-a-piece artichokes.

Will Mediterranean Diet help you lose weight?

The Mediterranean diet might help you lose weight. While some people fear that eating a diet like the Mediterranean diet that is relatively rich in fats (think olive oil, olives, avocado and some cheese) will keep them fat, more and more research is suggesting the opposite is true. Of course, it depends on which aspects you adopt and how it compares to your current diet. If, for instance, you build a “calorie deficit” into your plan – eating fewer calories than your daily recommended max or burning off extra by exercising – you should shed some pounds. How quickly and whether you keep them off is up to you.

Here’s a look at a few studies addressing weight loss on the Mediterranean diet:

  • A 2016 study in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal that analyzed data from Predimed – a five-year trial including 7,447 adults with Type 2 diabetes or at risk for cardiovascular disease who were assigned either a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, the same diet supplemented with nuts or a control diet – found that people on the Mediterranean versions added the fewest inches to their waistlines. The olive oil folks lost the most weight.
  • A 2010 study in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism assigned 259 overweight diabetics to one of three diets: a low-carb Mediterranean diet, a traditional Mediterranean diet or a diet based on recommendations from the American Diabetes Association. All groups were told to exercise 30 to 45 minutes at least three times per week. After a year, all groups lost weight; the traditional group lost an average of about 16 pounds while the ADA group dropped 17 pounds and the low-carb group lost 22 pounds.
  • Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, assigned 322 moderately obese adults to one of three diets: calorie-restricted low-fat; calorie-restricted Mediterranean; and non-calorie-restricted low-carb. After two years, the Mediterranean group had lost an average of 9 7/10 pounds; the low-fat group, 6 4/10 pounds; and the low-carb group, 10 3/10 pounds. Although weight loss didn’t differ greatly between the low-carb and Mediterranean groups, both lost appreciably more than the low-fat group did.
  • A 2008 analysis of 21 studies in the journal Obesity Reviews concluded the jury is still out on whether following the Mediterranean diet will lead to weight loss or a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese.

How easy is Mediterranean Diet to follow?

Because Mediterranean diets don’t ban entire food groups, you shouldn’t have trouble complying long term.

The Mediterranean diet can be convenient. When you want to cook, there’s a recipe and complementary wine that’ll transport you across the Atlantic. Oldways’ consumer-friendly tips will make meal planning and prepping easier. And you can eat out, as long as you bring someone along to share the hefty entrees.

Oldways offers numerous Mediterranean recipes, including this guide featuring meals that all cost $2 or less a serving. Otherwise, a simple Google search will turn up lots of healthy Mediterranean meal ideas. Want more inspiration? Oldways recommends the “4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan.”

If you eat out while following the Mediterranean diet, embrace the diet’s affinity for sharing by ordering one entree for the two of you. And be sure to start with a house salad or order extra veggies a la carte to get your fill.

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