By now, you’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet, which consists primarily of unprocessed plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, herbs, and spices. It also incorporates seafood, dairy, and poultry in moderation, with red meat consumed much less frequently.
Unlike many fad diets, the Mediterranean diet does not restrict any food groups and instead focuses on a well-balanced diet. It also discourages the consumption of processed foods with unhealthy added sugar and sodium. As such, it reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
For these reasons, this plant-based diet has claimed the top spot for the US News and World Report “Best Diet” rankings for the sixth year in a row. It also ranked first in the categories of diets for bone and joint health, family-friendly diets, healthy-eating diets, and plant-based diets.
Yet although all of these health benefits may make the Mediterranean diet enticing, there’s one more advantage it provides that just might convince you to try it out. Recent studies found that the Mediterranean diet may be the most effective for weight loss. So, if you’re curious to learn why and want to know how you can start following this diet, read on.
Weight Loss with the Mediterranean diet
A study published in Experimental Gerontology states that the Mediterranean diet has the largest body of evidence on preventing and treating non-communicable diseases and mortality. Researchers found that it significantly decreases body weight and BMI compared to other diets.
They also concluded that the more you stick to the Mediterranean diet, the less likely you are to gain weight or develop obesity in the long term. Fortunately, because of its non-restrictive quality, the Mediterranean diet is much easier to follow than most extreme fad diets.
These benefits are much easier to achieve because of the healthy eating habits the Mediterranean diet promotes. One of the most common reasons people fall away from their diets is because they’re too restrictive. Since they cut out major food groups or reduce calories too much, it’s hard to enjoy them.
However, this isn’t the case with the Mediterranean diet. Although you’re reducing your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and red meat, you’re not prohibited from the occasional indulgence. And rather than minimizing calories, you are encouraged to add more healthy food into the mix.
This is in line with science-backed weight loss programs that discourage restrictive diets. Instead of cutting down your food intake, these programs pay attention to the complex nutritional factors of food. By doing so, they help you prioritize the quality rather than the quantity of the foods you consume.
By encouraging you to eat more plant-based foods and moderate your consumption of fish and red meat, the Mediterranean diet helps you eat what you want, feel full for longer, and lose weight naturally and sustainably.
How to follow a Mediterranean diet
Use salads as a base for your meals
A Mediterranean diet includes vegetables, legumes, and grains in every meal. Although it may feel overwhelming to come up with different recipes that primarily consist of these ingredients, one easy way to avoid decision paralysis is by using salad as a base for your meals. Some common vegetables found in a Mediterranean diet that you can use are kale, eggplants, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, spinach, and mushrooms.
You can also add lentils, beans, quinoa, or farro to make it more filling. From here, you can add whatever other foods you want to the mix. By experimenting with different ingredients and topping them with spices, dressings, fruits, and meats, you can easily add variety to your meals.
Change how you approach meat
Since the Mediterranean diet is plant-based, you must limit your meat intake. It’s best to avoid red meat as much as possible since they’re high in fat and are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Instead, choose seafood, dairy, and poultry as your protein sources.
This gives you the flexibility to get creative with ingredients like chicken and fish. When you do eat red meat, moderate your intake by reinventing your approach to it. Instead of having it as a main dish, try envisioning meat as a side dish or garnish. This way, you can still enjoy it while consuming primarily plant-based ingredients.
Avoid sugary and alcoholic drinks
In general, the Mediterranean diet discourages drinking beverages like soda and coffee with creamer, which are some of the most unhealthy foods because of their high sugar content. Avoid alcoholic beverages like beer and hard liquor, as well. Drinks like these contain significant amounts of alcohol, making them counterproductive to weight loss.
Instead, you can drink berry and fruit juices or wine in moderation. Although you should limit your intake, these beverages are okay to drink when following a Mediterranean diet because they contain antioxidants that are considered to be heart-healthy.
A Mediterranean diet can be one of the most beneficial lifestyle choices. With easy-to-follow tips and very few restrictions, you can enjoy a lifetime of good health and enjoyable food.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. Graphic courtesy Ale Zozos & The Mediterranean Dish
If you want more lifestyle tips, you can find more here at Chique Home Living.