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Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is more than just a diet plan; it is a way of eating. It can be beneficial to almost all individuals and families, whether their goals are to lose weight, improve cardiovascular health or simply adopt a healthier way of eating. Healthcare providers are encouraged to promote the Mediterranean diet as a healthy way of eating. 

 

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are substantial and affect almost all parts of our health. Some of the benefits are listed below.

  • Reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD)1
  • Reduction in incidence of major cardiovascular (CV) events in high-risk individuals2
  • Reduction in incidence of or mortality from cancer1
  • Reduction in incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease1
  • Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome3
  • Reduced risk of depression4
  • Reduced risk of cognitive impairment4 and improvement in cognitive function5
  • Reduced incidence of chronic kidney disease6
  • Improved glycemic control in patients with Type 2 Diabetes7

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Healthcare providers can help their patients adopt the Mediterranean diet by providing them with education and support to implement the key principles of the Mediterranean diet. These principles are listed below.89

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Include at least 2 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit per day. Choose a variety of vegetables and fruits that are different colours.
  • Eat a variety of whole grain foods. Include foods, such as oats, brown rice, bulgar, barley, farro, and whole grain breads, pasta and couscous.
  • Choose healthy, unsaturated fats. Include at least four tablespoons of olive oil per day. Other healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils, such as flaxseed and avocado.
  • Eat legumes (peas, beans, lentils) at least three times per week. Try to include at least one vegetarian meal per week.
  • Eat fish at least two times per week. Use fish to replace red meat in the diet.
 
  • Limit red meat. Choose vegetarian proteins, fish, poultry, or eggs most often. Be aware of portion sizes - one portion of meat is ~2 ½ ounces (75 g) or about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Eat moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese and milk.
  • Limit sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Water should be chosen most often to drink. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, like fruit juice, fruit drinks/cocktails, pop, sport drinks, and energy drinks.
  • Enjoy meals in a relaxed environment free of distractions. Meals should be consumed in an unhurried setting to help people respond to their hunger/fullness cues and enjoy their meals.
  • Engage in physical activity on most days.
  • Consume red wine in moderation (one 5 oz. glass per day for women and two 5 oz. glasses per day for men). However, if a person does not drink, they should not be encouraged to start drinking. 

What about the MIND Diet?

The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet with an emphasis on foods that have been specifically linked to brain health.10 Research shows that the MIND diet can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50% and can slow cognitive decline.

The MIND Diet includes these 10 essential components:

  1. Leafy green vegetables – daily
  2. Other vegetables – daily
  3. Berries – at least twice a week
  4. Nuts – daily
  5. Beans – every other day
  6. Whole grains – three times a day
  7. Seafood – at least once a week
  8. Poultry – at least twice a week
  9. Olive oil – as the main dietary fat
  10. Wine – a glass (5 oz.) daily (if a person does not currently consume alcohol, they should not be encouraged to start)

The MIND Diet also includes a list of foods to limit:

  1. Red meats – less than four times a week
  2. Butter and stick margarine – less than one tablespoon a day
  3. Cheese – less than one serving a week
  4. Pastries and sweets – less than five servings a week
  5. Fried or fast food – less than one serving a week.

Healthcare providers are encouraged to refer patients to a Registered Dietitian for more information about implementing the Mediterranean diet and MIND diet.

 
Date of creation: December 22, 2017
Last modified on: November 26, 2019

References

1Sofi F, Cesari F et al. (2008). Adhernce to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. 337:a1344.
2Estruch et al. (2013). Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. New England Journal of Medicine. 368(14): 1279-89
3Kastorini CM et al. (2011). The effect of med diet on metabolic syndrome and it’s components, meta-analysis of 50 studies and 534,906 individuals. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 57(11): 1299-313.
4Psaltopoulou T et al. (2013). Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Annals of Neurology. 74(4): 580-91.
5Valls-Pedret C et al. (2015). Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 175(7): 10941103.
6Khatri M. et al. (2014). The association between a Mediterranean-Style diet and kidney function in the Northern Manhattan study cohort. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. 9(11): 1868-1975.
7Huo R et al. (2015). Effects of Mediterranean-style diet on glycemic control, weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors among type 2 diabetes individuals: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 69(11): 1200-1208.
8MacDonald Werstuck M and Kapuscinski L. (2017). Eating Mediterranean Webinar. Retrieved from
http://opha.on.ca/Nutrition-Resource-Centre/Events/Events/2017/NRC-Webinar-Eating-Mediterranean.aspx
9HealthLink BC. 2016, November 11). Mediterranean Diet. Retrieved from
https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa98646
10Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (2017). Eat to protect your brain. Retrieved from
http://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/eat-to-protect-your-brain