The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional food fare that are consumed by people in countries bordering the Mediterranean sea such as Greece and Italy.
Interest in this diet became popular as people living there generally live longer, with much lower incidence of chronic diseases as compared to Americans.
How the Mediterranean Works
Principles of the Diet
On a daily basis:
- Consume more than 7 servings of vegetables and whole fruits
- Choose staples which are wholegrains such as whole grain bread, red / brown rice, oats, wholegrain based pasta or other carbohydrates
- Snack on baked nuts, seeds and beans instead of deep fried snacks like potato chips
- Cook with oil that contain healthy fats (mono / poly saturated fats) such as Olive oil
- Season with natural spices and herbs
- Drink water
On a moderate basis (2 to 3 times a week) :
- Consume healthily prepared seafood such as crabs, clams, prawns etc.
- Fish that contain healthy fats such as mackerel, salmon, tuna
- Poultry such as chicken (breast) that is roasted or boiled (not deep fried)
- Eggs, natural cheese and Greek yoghurt
- 1 to 2 glasses of red wine a week
Rarely (1 to 2 times a month) :
- Red meat such as beef or pork
Avoid as much as possible :
- Refined grains such as white bread or white rice
- Processed meat and foods such as ham, bacon and processed cheese
- Sugar Laden foods such as cakes, ice cream, fruit juices, soft drinks
- Refine oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil
Adopting a healthy lifestyle
- Exercise at moderate intensity for at least 150 mins a week
- Have meals together with family and friends to foster togetherness and mood
Mediterranean Diet Weight Loss?
The diet is a non-structured diet which generally advise what should and should not be on your plate. As such, food must be consumed based on individual caloric requirements. Over consumption or uncontrolled intake of such foods can still lead to weight issues.
Considering a good caloric balance :
- A 2018 study published in Nutrition & Diabetes analyzed dietary patterns of 32,119 Italian participants and concluded that following a Mediterranean diet helped lower levels of weight gain and reduction in waist circumference (more intervention studies required)
- A 2010 study in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism assigned 259 overweight diabetics to Mediterranean based diet plans coupled with exercise 3 to 4 times a week. After a year, all participants have recorded considerable weight loss.
Mediterranean Meal Plan
A typical recommended diet plan can be as follows :
Breakfast – Oatmeal with Greek yoghurt topped with fresh fruits
Lunch – Whole meal bread with egg, chicken breast and fresh vegetables, or brown rice with 2 vegetable sides and steamed chicken.
Snack – handful of baked nuts
Dinner – lightly stir fried salmon with vegetables and brown rice
Mediterranean to manage chronic illnesses?
- The diet encourages individuals to eat whole foods with single ingredients which are not overly processed.
- These foods are high in good fats such as mono / poly saturated fats which are proven to be beneficial for cardiovascular and cholesterol levels.
- Low added sugar content helps reduce the chances of obesity and beneficial for management and prevention of diabetes.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)
By : Alvin Ho
B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)