"When Americans think of a 'diet,' they tend to think deprivation," says Eve
Adamson, co-author (with chef Melissa Kelly) of Mediterranean Women Stay
Slim, Too and The Mediterranean Diet (with Marissa Cloutier,
"That is: no carbs, no fat, no sugar, no meat -- diets are all about
forbidding particular foods. The Mediterranean diet is different. Instead
of focusing on what you can't have, it focuses on what you can have --
the very best, freshest, healthiest foods."
Basic Ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet:
Fresh, healthy food. The staples of the Mediterranean diet include
fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, seafood,
yogurt, olive oil, and small amounts of wine, Adamson tells WebMD. Food
should be eaten in season and locally grown, and Mediterrean dieters
avoid processed food.
Portion control. The Mediterranean diet focuses on small portions of
high-quality food. "When food tastes delicious, a little is enough because your
senses have been satisfied," Adamson points out. And healthy fats like olive
oil and nuts, which are staples of the Mediterranean diet, keep you feeling
fuller longer than diets that restrict fat or forbid it altogether.
Healthy fats. Unlike most diets, the Mediterranean diet
doesn't cut fat consumption across the board, according to Fred A. Stutman, MD,
a Philadelphia-based physician and author of 100 Weight-Loss Tips That
Really Work. Rather than limiting total fat intake, the Mediterranean diet
makes wise choices about the type of fats that are used. On the
menu are the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados; and
polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna,
sardines, and trout); and fat from plant sources, like flaxseed. Limiting
processed and packaged foods keeps the diet extremely low in unhealthy trans
fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and
Olive oil. The Mediterranean people use olive oil in almost
everything they eat, including pastas, breads, vegetables, salads, fish, and
even cakes and pastries, Stutman tells WebMD. It's the principal fat in the
Mediterranean diet, replacing other fats and oils, including butter and
margarine. What's so healthy about olive oil? Researchers at the Monell
Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that oleocanthal, a compound in
olive oil, may reduce inflammation, which could help prevent conditions like
heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's, and autoimmune diseases, as
well as certain cancers.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Found in abundance in the Mediterranean diet,
omega-3 fatty acids are bursting with health benefits, according to Stutman.
Fatty acids have been shown to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, blood
clots, hypertension, and strokes; and may prevent certain forms of cancer and
lower the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease.
More vegetables, less meat. "A diet higher in plant foods and lower
in animal products has been linked to decreased incidence of heart disease,
diabetes, and many cancers," Adamson says. The traditional Mediterranean diet
is practically vegetarian, with lots of fish and very little meat. As for
vegetables, Mediterranean people feast on tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, capers,
spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, white beans, lentils, and chick peas, according