Docs, nutritionists and Pinterest boards alike love to push the Mediterranean diet. And for good reason, according to Women's Health Magazine: Research shows that the diet slows aging, reduces the risk of heart disease and may even fight cancer. Plus, it includes red wine!
’Nuff said, right? Not really.
For a lot of women, all of those health benefits don’t mean much if the diet doesn’t help them get to a healthy weight. Women's Health talked to Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to find out if the diet can help you work towards your weight loss goals.
Despite its name, there’s really no “one” Mediterranean diet, says Delbridge. There are no strict macronutrient or caloric guidelines, no outlawed foods, and no “you have to eat this or else” ingredients. It's more of a rough sketch of what people in Greece and southern Italy ate around 1960, when the Mediterranean region boasted some of the world’s lowest rates of chronic disease and longest life expectancies. Cha-ching!
During this time, researchers found that most people within the Mediterranean region followed a whole-food, plant-based diet that emphasized filling up on fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, legumes and whole grains. They also ate fish and seafood at least twice a week. Their meals included a ton of herbs and spices, along with a moderate amount of olive oil for flavoring, and modest servings of poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt. It scaled back considerably on both desserts and red meat, but included daily red wine consumption. Processed foods were basically nonexistent.
If you eat like that, then you’re on a Mediterranean diet.
Will it help you lose weight? Yep. And it even leads to better long-term weight loss than low-fat diets, according to a 2016 review published in "The American Journal of Medicine". What’s more, if you break down the diet, research shows that many of its components, like swapping out refined grains for whole ones and eating more fruits and veggies, are linked to weight loss, says Delbridge.
“The diet isn’t about any one magic food or formula,” he says. “It comes down to eating healthy foods in healthy portion sizes. With the Mediterranean diet, you're consuming lots of protein, fiber, whole carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, and lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You're eating foods in their most natural state.”
That pretty much explains why everyone and their mom has recommended the diet to those at risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia or cancer. You know, because it’s actually good for you, he says.
It's a novel concept amidst a never-ending array of fad diets, huh?
>> Recipe: Skinny Mediterranean Pasta