Learn about the popular Mediterranean diet, and get diet tips and top-rated recipes to try.

August 15, 2019

This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com by Carl Hanson.

Essentially, the Mediterranean diet is about eating whole foods, including lots of fruits and veggies, and limiting heavily processed foods and saturated fats.

Sound familiar? It could be because those are common themes in so much dietary advice. So when Michael Pollan talks about an Eater's Manifesto -- "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" -- he's kind of talking about the Mediterranean diet. And the recommendations for the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines? They also echo the main features of the Mediterranean diet.

As far as health benefits, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower the risk of chronic diseases and increase life expectancy. It may also be good for your overall mood. In a recent study exploring diet and depression, people who followed the Mediterranean diet for 3 months reported improved mood and reduced levels of anxiety. How might this work? One theory notes that the Mediterranean diet is diverse in plant foods that provide the micronutrients the brain needs to function well.

A Mediterranean diet has other benefits, too. With its emphasis on vegetables and whole foods, it may help you lose weight and then maintain the weight you want. According to a recent study published in JAMA, people who focused on eating lots of vegetables and other whole foods while cutting back on added sugars and processed foods (including refined grains) lost significant weight. As The New York Times reported, "The research lends strong support to the notion that diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose and manage their weight most easily in the long run." The Mediterranean Diet, with its whole-foods focus, is just such a quality diet!

Here are a few keys for living the dream, Mediterranean style, along with top-rated recipes that showcase healthy whole foods, simple preparations, and wonderful fresh flavors.

1. Eat Loads of Plant-Based Foods

The name of the game is fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Oh, and a little red wine with dinner. More on that later.

Cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, oregano, feta cheese, and a simple vinaigrette give this classic Greek salad big flavor and serious crunch. "Deceptively simple and -- delicious!" raves Maura Alia Badji. "The two key instructions made all the difference: 1. Salting and draining the cucumbers to get a note of crispness and lose the slight bitterness is a game-changer. 2. Adding the red wine vinegar and tossing before adding the olive oil allows the salad to soak up the vinegar instead of being made water-proof by adding oil first."

"This is my favorite hummus recipe. It's easy to make, very inexpensive and I can adjust the garlic and cayenne pepper to suit my taste. I have this on hand all the time as a treat!" -- German Shepherd Mom

Spiced Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Photo: larkspur

"Vegetable broth, barley, and lots of veggies make this soup hearty and filling. Easy to make and delicious." -- BEAKER1

Beaker's Vegetable Barley Soup
Photo: CCloves2bake

You might also like Best Marinara Sauce Yet.

"This salad is so refreshing and yummy! Seasonal fruit with a touch of lime and honey makes it elegant too!" -- Tryna P.

Honey Lime Fruit Salad
Photo: lutzflcat

2. Cook and Season Food with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Heart-healthy olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. Shake it up 3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice for a bright, fresh, delicious dressing for salads and fresh veggies.

"Fresh and flavorful, and I love the light, refreshing dressing. I used all ingredients to taste and a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to lemon juice." -- naples34102

Mediterranean Bean Salad
Photo: naples34102

"Because this salad is so simple, fresh, top-quality tomatoes and mozzarella are important." -- Marina

Insalata Caprese II
Photo: Spunky Buddy

"I loved these flavors and the chewy texture of the Kale (over limpness of spinach which I also love.) The flavors were great, the preparation was very easy, and I love discovering a healthy recipe that is so tasty." -- LFeeley

Mediterranean Kale
Photo: KGora

You might also like Easy Arugula Salad.

3. Choose Seafood, Lean Meats, and Legumes

For protein, the Mediterranean diet looks primarily to seafood, lean meats, nuts, and legumes. Additional protein comes from poultry, eggs, a little cheese, and yogurt.

"These salmon fillets are simply seasoned with salt and pepper and pan seared with capers, and garnished with slices of lemon." -- Noreen421

Pan Seared Salmon I
Photo by KGora

"Fresh and lemon-y, the zest makes this salad sing." -- BGCITYKAT

Nicoise-Style Tuna Salad With White Beans & Olives
Photo: naples34102

You might also like Marinated Tuna Steak.

"Hearty and healthy soup that is a favorite with friends and family. Sounds more difficult than it is. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese." -- colleenlora

Creamy Italian White Bean Soup
Photo: larkspur

"I made up this salad because our garden is simply overflowing with zucchini! We ate it as a main dish for dinner." -- homecookingtheworldover

Zucchini and Artichoke Salad
Photo: naples34102

"This is a light, healthy tapa that goes best with crisp white wines and crunchy bread. Great for experimenting with a variety of different vegetables, spices, and vinegars." -- La Cocina de Redondita

Avocado and Tuna Tapas
Photo: bd.weld

"This Moroccan recipe was passed down for generations in my family. It is a favorite! May be served hot or cold according to taste." -- Hanna R

Spanish Moroccan Fish
Photo: CookinBug

"Fresh tomatoes, herbs, and a touch of wine combine to make a light yet distinctive sauce for sauteed sea scallops with tiny shrimp." -- Sean

Scallops Provencale
Photo: naples34102

"This delicious chicken dish easy to prepare. The light and luscious lemon sauce really pops without being too acidic; it is simply divine. Serve it with herb-roasted potatoes or lemon-rice pilaf." -- LemonLush

Lemon Chicken Piccata
Photo: KGora

"This is a very easy seared halibut with a wine and caper sauce! It takes hardly any time at all to make, but it is sure to leave a lasting impression." -- Barbara Tantrum

240492_Capers and Halibut_ 50392 _ Photo by pelicangal
Photo: pelicangal

You might also like Herb Crusted Halibut.

BONUS! Drink Red Wine...Wait for It...in Moderation

A glass or two of antioxidant-rich red wine each day has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

This article originally appeared on allrecipes.com