There is no single Mediterranean diet, as our diet plan review explains, but there are common features shared by the types of food eaten in the 16 countries bordering the sea. Many of these foods are believed to have significant health benefits.
Diet meal plans and recipes for the Mediterranean diet have these features in common:
The Mediterranean diet does include a relatively high percentage of calories acquired from fat, which means it can cause obesity. Some countries in the region are beginning to see a rise in obesity among their populations. However, this style of eating does include less saturated fat than the eating habits of the average British or American. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil raise blood cholesterol levels far less than saturated fat.
- Olive oil as the main source of monounsaturated fat
- Lots of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, bread and other cereals, as well as beans, seeds and nuts.
- Low or medium quantities of dairy products, poultry and fish, and very little red meat
- Eggs are eaten a maximum of four times a week, or sometimes not at all
- Low or medium quantities of wine are drunk
There is a lower incidence of heart disease in countries of this region than in Britain and the United States, which has often been attributed to the eating habits of the area, but scientific evidence to back these conclusions is limited. There are several other factors that may also contribute to phenomenon, including higher levels of physical activity as part of the lifestyle of these countries, as well as extended families and social support systems.