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Mediterranean Diet Food list : 118 foods you can eat on a Mediterranean Diet
Last updated on 2021-09-16T12:06:16 by Olayemi Michael Bsc (nutrition and dietetics)
There is some evidence that up to 40% of calories from fat can be healthy if monounsaturated fats account for most of the fat. The first evidence that a diet high in monounsaturated fats can be heart healthy was reported over 60 years ago in the 7 Countries Study conducted by Ancel Keys and colleagues this study led to today’s popular Mediterranean Diet. Those who follow the traditional Mediterranean Diet enjoy some of the lowest recorded rates of chronic disease in the world.
The traditional Mediterranean diet (MD) is the heritage of millennia of exchanges of people, cultures and foods of all countries around the Mediterranean basin. It has been the basis of food habits during the twentieth century in all countries of the region, originally based on Mediterranean agricultural and rural models. This diet is now making a wave in this current age and nutrition professionals can’t stop celebrating this diet. As of 2021, it’s been ranked the best diet overall of the fourth year in a row by U.S. News and World Reports.
Are you thinking of adopting this diet? Don’t worry, I'm going to help you with Mediterranean diet food list. Unlike other diets, Mediterranean diet has few restrictions and can be easily adopted by anyone.
Mediterranean Diet Guide
- Main meals should contain three basic elements, which can also be found throughout the day:
o Cereals: one or two servings per meal in the form of bread, pasta, rice, couscous and others. Preferably whole grain, since processing normally removes fibre and some valuable nutrients (Mg, Fe, vitamins, etc.).
o Vegetables: two or more servings per meal. In order to ensure vitamin and mineral daily intakes, at least one of the servings should be consumed raw (one meal/d).
o Fruit: one or two servings per meal, as the most frequently chosen dessert. The concept of ‘variety in colours and textures’ is highlighted, in the case of fruit and vegetables, in order to ensure a wide variety of antioxidants and protective compounds.
- A daily intake of 1·5–2 l of water (equivalent to six to eight glasses) should be guaranteed. Proper hydration is essential to maintaining the corporal water equilibrium, although needs may vary among people due to age, physical activity, personal circumstances and weather conditions. It should be consumed freely, bottled or from the tap, when hygienic circumstances allow it. In addition to water, sugar-free herbal infusions and tea, and low-sodium and low-fat broths may help to complete the requirements.
- Dairy products should be present in moderate amounts (two servings per day), with a preference for low-fat dairy, traditionally in the form of yoghurt, cheese and other fermented dairy products. Although their richness in Ca is important for bone and heart health, dairy products can be a major source of saturated fat.
- Olive oil is located at the centre of the pyramid; it should be the principal source of dietary lipids because of its high nutritional quality (especially extra virgin olive oil). Its unique composition gives it a high resistance to elevated temperatures, and it is recommended for both cooking and dressings. Olive oil has been reported to be inversely associated with some cancers and is known to positively affect blood lipids and cardiovascular systems. This may be related to its high content of monounsaturated oleic acids and abundance of antioxidant compounds, which are primarily present in virgin olive oil. Traditionally, vegetables and other plant foods are cooked with olive oil, thus amplifying their nutritional value.
- Olives, nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy lipids, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibre. A reasonable consumption of olives, nuts and seeds (such as a handful) make for a healthy snack choice.
- Spices, herbs, garlic and onions are a good way to introduce a variety of flavours and palatability to dishes and allow for a reduction in salt use, as salt is one of the main contributing factors to the development of hypertension among predisposed individuals. Herbs and spices are good sources of micronutrients and antioxidant compounds and also contribute to the regional identities of Mediterranean dishes.
- Respecting religious and social beliefs, a moderate consumption of wine and other fermented beverages during meals (one glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men, as a generic reference) is present in the MDP.
Consumption of a variety of plant- and animal-origin proteins is recommended. Traditional Mediterranean dishes do not usually have animal-origin protein foods as the main ingredient but rather as a source of flavour.
- Fish and shellfish (two or more servings), white meat (two servings) and eggs (two to four servings) are good sources of animal protein. Fish, white meat (poultry, turkey, rabbit, etc.) and eggs provide high-quality protein. Fish and shellfish are a good source of healthy protein and lipids. Varied consumption (of oily fish, lean fish and shellfish) is recommended. Fish (especially those high in lipids) and shellfish consumption has been reported to reduce the risk of CHD and they have anti-inflammatory properties due to their content of long chain n-3 PUFA. White meat is also a good source of lean protein without the high levels of saturated fat found in some red meat cuts. Egg consumption, including those used in cooking as well as baking, should be between two and four times per week.
- Consumption of red meat (less than two servings, preferably lean cuts) and processed meats (less than one serving) should be small in both quantity and frequency as the intake of such meats has been consistently associated with some chronic diseases (cancers and CHD).
- The combination of legumes (more than two servings) and cereals is a healthy plant protein and lipid source that should be considered as a meat alternative.
- Potatoes are also included on the weekly level (three or fewer servings per week, preferably fresh), as they are a part of many traditional recipes with meat and fish. They should be consumed in moderation as they have a high glycaemic index and are most commonly prepared fried.
In the top vertex of the pyramid are the foods rich in sugars and unhealthy fats (sweets). Sugar, candies, pastries and beverages such as sweetened fruit juices and soft drinks should be consumed in small amounts and set aside for special occasions. These foods are energy dense and are likely to contribute to weight gain. Simple sugars, which are abundant in sweets, pastries, fruit juices and soft drinks, have been associated with an increased occurrence of tooth decay.
Mediterranean Diet Cereal
2. Brown Rice
4. Bulgur (Cracked Wheat)
11. Whole Grain Barley
12. Whole Grain Cornmeal
13. Whole Grain Sorghum
14. Whole Rye
15. Whole Wheat Bread
16. Whole Wheat Cereal Flakes
17. Whole Wheat Crackers
18. Whole Wheat Pasta
19. Pasta (Spaghetti, Macaroni)
20. Pita Pocket Bread
Mediterranean Diet Vegetables
32. Grape Leaves
33. Arugula (Rocket)
34. Bok Choy
36. Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)
38. Collard Greens
39. Dark-Green Leafy Lettuce
44. Mixed Greens
45. Mustard Greens
46. Romaine Lettuce
48. Swiss Chard
49. Turnip Greens
51. Acorn Squash
52. Bell Peppers
53. Butternut Squash
55. Hubbard Squash
57. Red Chili Peppers
58. Red Peppers, Sweet
59. Sweet Potatoes
Mediterranean Diet Fruits
69. Fruit Cocktail
73. Kiwi Fruit
88. Star Fruit
91. Acai Berries
96. Goji Berries
98. Lingonberries (Cowberries)
Mediterranean Diet Dairy
101. Low Fat Yoghurt
Mediterranean Diet Fish and Seafood
Mediterranean Diet Nut and Seed
116. Pumpkin Seeds
Bach-Faig, A., Berry, E., Lairon, D., Reguant, J., Trichopoulou, A., Dernini, S., . . . Serra-Majem, L. (2011). Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Health Nutrition, 14(12A), 2274-2284. doi:10.1017/S1368980011002515
Vanitallie TB. Ancel Keys: A tribute. Nutr Metab. 2005;14:4.
U.S. News and World Reports: “Best Diets Overall”