Why the Mediterranean Diet Is So Healthy
Amid all the superfoods and fad diets, one style of eating consistently comes out on top as the best: the Mediterranean diet. In 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, it was ranked as the best diet to try by U.S. News & World Report. It earns first-place rights for its impressive roster of health benefits, including heart protection, weight regulation and cancer reduction.
The typical Mediterranean diet foods—fish, nuts, plant oils, fruits and vegetables—help lower inflammation in your body, improve blood vessel function and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. All of these benefits serve to keep your ticker ticking and your mind sharp. Decades of research bears this out, too.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
This way of eating focuses on foods like olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish. Wine is part of the typical Mediterranean diet, too, but you should drink it in moderation. This style of diet can also include some dairy and poultry ingredients—but, like wine, these are usually limited.
The Mediterranean diet places an emphasis on fresh, colorful eating and shuns heavily processed ingredients. Trust us, your plate will never be boring. Even better news: though "diet" is in the name, this plan is more of a holistic approach to eating that relies on real foods. You won't be counting calories or macronutrients like you would with a typical "diet."
Here are three reasons to make space on your plate for Mediterranean diet foods.
It can keep your heart healthier
Recipe to Try: Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowl
In a 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that people on a Mediterranean diet were far less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event than people who ate a low-fat diet. The study participants who ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts saw their risk of cardiovascular disease drop by 30 percent.
It can have weight-loss benefits
Recipe to Try: White Bean & Veggie Salad
In a study on younger women, those who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower body mass index (BMI) and smaller waist and thighs than those who adhered to the diet's style the least. This is likely because the diet is high in antioxidants and provides rich anti-inflammatory properties. It's also packed with fiber, a nutrient known for keeping you full.
It can support better brain health
Recipe to Try: Spiralized Mediterranean Cucumber Salad
A 2016 review of 18 studies in Frontiers in Nutrition found that eating Mediterranean was associated with less cognitive decline, reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, and better memory and executive function. Additional research in the journal Neurology likened the diet's effects to reducing the brain's age by five years.
The bottom line
With all of these accolades, it makes sense that you may want to start a Mediterranean diet. Here are 8 ways to follow the Mediterranean Diet to help you get started and a week of Mediterranean lunches you can meal-prep in under an hour. Whether you decide to fully adopt the philosophies of the Mediterranean diet, or you think small, incremental steps are more your speed, every little bit can help you eat—and feel—healthier. The great thing about eating this way is that you're sure to find many of your favorite foods are still available to you. Even better, you're bound to find many new ones you love.