Growing up as a Greek-American, I never realized how fortunate I was to be eating and adhering to the Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle; it just came naturally. We fried in Olive Oil and ate Feta Cheese drove from Sheep’s and Goat’s milk.
Today, we realize that this diet bears many fruits, and the Mediterranean diet is often championed by doctors and dietitians alike for its focus on healthy fats as well as vitamin-rich sources of fruits and vegetables. If you are considering following this heart-healthy diet, here’s what you need to know about getting started as well as the diet’s health benefits. After I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2016 I stumbled on the KETO diet somewhere around early 2018. Since then I have been subscribing to this new way of eating and have adapted the Mediterranean Diet by making it low carb. All I did was remove the whole grain pieces of bread and the unrefined cereals.
The Key Principles
No specific doctor or hospital created the Mediterranean diet. Instead, the diet is inspired by the traditional foods eaten by those living in the Mediterranean regions, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. The diet revolves around lean proteins, such as fish and poultry,
The basic foods eaten include: Visit the recipes page here.
- 5 to 10 servings a day: Fresh, non-starchy vegetables
- 4 to 6 servings a day: Healthy sources of fats, such as avocado, olive, and olive oil
- 4 servings: Whole-grain bread (not on Keto)
- 2 to 3 times a week: Servings of fish and eggs
- 1 to 3 servings a day: Dairy products from cultured milk, such as yogurt, kefir, and ricotta cheese (Perfect for Keto)
- 1 serving a day/every other day: Nuts and legumes (mostly notes, and little to no legumes on Keto).
Those cooking and following the Mediterranean diet are also encouraged to use many flavorful herbs and spices that are often packed with nutrients. They also drink water, green tea, and espresso or Greek coffee, which is the thick finely ground coffee similar to Turkish and Lebanese coffee. Some people will also drink a glass of red wine a day. However, a person should not necessarily start drinking wine if they do not drink it currently. Also, recently I found some low sugar/low carb wines with around 3.6 net carbs per bottle.
Example of a Day Eating the Mediterranean Way
A person’s Mediterranean diet may start by eating a healthy breakfast of slow-cooked oatmeal topped with blueberries, strawberries, and slivered almonds. For those following Keto, you will have to make your own low-carb granola. Lunch is a grilled piece of fish with a side of mixed vegetables or a whole-grain wrap (or low carb wrap) with grilled chicken and avocado followed by a snack of slivered almonds or almond butter on sliced whole-grain bread (or low carb bread). Dinner can be pasta (low carb) made in a slow cooker that includes spinach, onions, celery, and spinach.
What you won’t see on the Mediterranean diet is high-sugar foods or processed foods that come from a box. The foods are fresh and flavorful. The other things I have omitted are fresh fruits. Typically, Greek will eat fresh fruit after a meal, such as a watermelon, or cantaloupe, honeydew melon, cherries, or grapes, while we save the sweet deserts for coffee time. For keto you could have, for example, you can have my Keto Greek Almond cake with your afternoon shot of Greek coffee or a shot of Espresso.
Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
Eating the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. This health benefit is associated with reduced risks for Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack, and stroke. Following the diet has also been shown to maintain better blood sugar control as well as reduce a person’s risk for depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, a study of an estimated 1.5 million adults who followed a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have heart disease and more likely to live longer.
A diet high in healthy fat sources like omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fats from olive oil is associated with better heart health, lower blood pressure, and less likelihood of experiencing a heart attack.
In addition to the dietary and nutritional benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet, the diet also reflects a lifestyle. It is one of enjoying the foods one eats and savoring a colorful plate of fruits (limited fruit on Keto), vegetables, whole grains (not on Keto), and fish. The diet is intended to help a person eat without feeling deprived.