Eat the Rainbow: Embracing Your Health with the Mediterranean Diet

By Julie Thomas – Gleaners Nutrition Education Team

            The Mediterranean diet has grown in popularity, not only for its delicious foods but also for its array of health benefits. This diet is a great option for individuals seeking a flavorful yet health-focused dietary pattern. 

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

           The Mediterranean diet revolves around dietary patterns inspired by the traditional food of regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This approach is more than a diet; it is a lifestyle shift rather than a restricted way of eating. The Mediterranean diet is based on these foods:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (tuna, salmon, sardines, herring)
  • Whole grains (bread, pasta, rice, cereals)
  • Legumes/ beans (chickpeas, kidney beans)
  • Nuts and seeds

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods. The meals are built around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, and whole grains. A good approach for following this diet is utilizing the Mediterranean diet pyramid as a foundational guide for dietary choices. At the base of the pyramid lies not just the food but a lifestyle. It emphasizes physical activity and the joy of sharing meals with others. Moving upwards, the pyramid prioritizes abundant fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, etc. Next, fish and seafood follow, succeeded by moderate consumption of poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. The top of the pyramid represents the smallest portion of meats and sweets, which should only be consumed occasionally. Lastly, we have red wine and water on the side of the pyramid. For those who choose to drink alcohol, red wine is a traditional aspect of the Mediterranean diet; however, it should only be consumed in small amounts with meals. 

Why the Mediterranean Diet? 

 The Mediterranean diet offers many benefits for overall health. Some of these benefits include:

  • Decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Promoting healthy blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol 
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight 
  • Slowing the decline of cognitive function with aging
  • Reducing your risk of metabolic syndrome