Learn about the popular Mediterranean diet, and get diet tips and top-rated recipes to try.
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."
You might also like Marinated Green Beans with Olives, Tomatoes, and Feta.
"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
"Vegetable broth, barley, and lots of veggies make this soup hearty and filling. Easy to make and delicious." -- BEAKER1
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.
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
"Because this salad is so simple, fresh, top-quality tomatoes and mozzarella are important." -- Marina
"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
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
"Fresh and lemon-y, the zest makes this salad sing." -- BGCITYKAT
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
"I made up this salad because our garden is simply overflowing with zucchini! We ate it as a main dish for dinner." -- homecookingtheworldover
You might also like Greek Island Chicken Shish Kebabs.
"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
"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
"Fresh tomatoes, herbs, and a touch of wine combine to make a light yet distinctive sauce for sauteed sea scallops with tiny shrimp." -- Sean
You might also like Pan-Seared Scallops with Pepper and Onions in Anchovy Oil.
"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
You might also like Braised Chicken and Artichoke Hearts.
"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
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.
See Our Complete Collection of Mediterranean Diet Recipes
- See How to Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
- 8 Simple One-Skillet Recipes for the Mediterranean Diet
- 8 Slow Cooker Recipes for the Mediterranean Diet
- 10 Instant Pot Recipes for the Mediterranean Diet
- 10 Top Recipes for Your Budget-Friendly Mediterranean Diet
- How to Switch to a Plant-Based Diet