Definition of Mediterranean diet

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Mediterranean diet: A diet traditionally followed in Greece, Crete, southern France, and parts of Italy that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, olive oil (as opposed to butter) and grilled or steamed chicken and seafood (as opposed to red meat). Plus a glass or two of red wine.

To be exact, there is not merely one Mediterranean diet. What is eaten varies significantly from one Mediterranean country to another. There also are major differences in diet between some regions within a country, as in Italy. However, the shared features of what is usually spoken of as the Mediterranean-style diet are as follows:

  • High consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, beans, nuts and seeds;
  • Olive oil is the key monounsaturated fat source;
  • Dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts;
  • Little red meat is eaten;
  • Eggs are eaten zero to four times a week; and
  • Wine is drunk in moderate (or low) amounts.

Many studies indicate that a Mediterranean diet may play an important role in the prevention of coronary artery heart disease. A Mediterranean-style diet also appears to help avoid the metabolic syndrome (prediabetes) and reduce the chances that a person will die sooner rather than later.


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