The Mediterranean diet can be a little confusing. It differs depending on which source you read. It is based on the kinds of foods most often consumed in south European countries on the Mediterranean Sea.
But these countries’ diets vary quite a bit from each other. To complicate matters further, the modern incarnation of these Mediterranean diets are often influenced by recent popular trends.
But in the end the common elements among most variations of the Mediterranean diet are lean meats and fish, lots of vegetables and fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats and oils. In this way it is like nearly every other diet I review here (Zone, Atkins, Keto, Paleo).
How the Mediterranean diet differs
The Mediterranean diet seems to deviate a bit from these other diets in two ways.
First, it limits red meat, eggs, butter, and other sources of cholesterol and so-called unhealthy fats. The low-carb oriented diets don’t place any such restrictions on these things.
In fact, most of the other diets point out that high-fat, high-cholesterol foods are HEALTHY.
The second big difference between the Mediterranean diet and the others is that the it doesn’t limit grains or carbohydrates. Grains and carbohydrates are at the top of the enemies list of all the other modern diets.
Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
There is evidence that the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, such as lower risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol. See Wikipedia’s page on “Mediterranean diet” for all the geeky footnotes.
Many believe that this reduced risk of disease is the result of the greater quantities of olive oil, fish, and other “healthy fats” consumed in the Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil is one specific item that Mediterranean peoples consume in much greater quanties than do people in the west. Research now seems to show that this may be the single greatest contributor to the lower incidence of heart disease.
Mediterranean diet and weight loss
There is certainly not much in this to argue with in terms of health. Any diet that emphasizes lean meats and fish, lots of vegetables and fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats and oils can’t go wrong.
And frankly, the research on extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is impressive.
BUT before you run off and buy bulk quantities of EVOO, remember that EVOO has around 120 calories per tablespoon.
If you are trying to lose weight and targeting 1500 calories/day, there isn’t very much room for much oil, no matter how “healthy” it is. And just because EVOO is actually healthy doesn’t mean you can run a calorie surplus and still lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
The same goes for the Mediterranean diet in general. Lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and healthy fats are probably the very best fuels for the body. But that does not negate the calorie count factor.
If you need to limit yourself to 2000 calories/day to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, then 3000 calories/day of the healthiest food on earth is UNHEALTHY and will cause you to gain weight!
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