Lessons from the Popular Mediterranean Diet

By Linda Rakos, RD, assistant director of Hospitality Services, Shell Point Retirement Community

Have you heard about the Mediterranean diet? The “diet” is actually a lifestyle dating back to ancient times and is characterized by the traditional cooking style in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the American Dietetic Association, the diet promotes heart healthy feasting on “fresh, minimally processed foods that are mostly plant-based and rich in monounsaturated fats.” The basic eating pattern includes:

  • Generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes every day
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food
  • Very small portions of red meats
  • Fish or shellfish at least twice a week, which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Small portions of nuts
  • Cheese and yogurts daily, as a good source of calcium
  • Whole grains, which contain very few trans fats
  • Plain bread dipped in olive oil
  • Keeping physically active

What can we learn from the Mediterranean diet? Virtually everyone can benefit from eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and healthy oils. This type of eating pattern is recommended as part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and may have a preventative effect against cardiovascular disease. A study released in 2006 concluded that components of the Mediterranean diet protects against cognitive decline. While there is no conclusive evidence at this time, it does point to a possible connection between diet and Alzheimer’s disease. Hopefully even more specific dietary recommendations will emerge with further research.