Essence of Mediterranean diet

By Dr Sujatha Varalwar

Mediterranean Diet originally reflects- “way of life, regimen, dwelling.” The word diet derived from ancient Greek word Diaita, meaning way of living. The Mediterranean Sea is between Europe, Asia and Africa. It is the oldest form of diet system in the world, more than 3000 yrs. old.

It is a tradition and culture of this region which had abundant olive trees, the climate suitable for fruits in all the seasons, and had fishing as an important occupation. Lots of local herbs were a part of the cooking and were also used as medicines.

It is not just diet or food habits programed for weight loss but to promote mindfulness & healthy lifestyle and treat your body as whole. It’s a traditional practice and lifestyle which includes – healthy food habits, work schedule, physical activities, place of living and social environment and is passed on for generation to generation . Mediterranean Diet is also known to be the ultimate guide to “heart-healthy-eating” philosophy.

– “Components Like” – Olive oil, cereals, primarily plant-based foods – fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains, nuts, some red wine, dairy, fresh meat, moderate amounts of fish and eggs. Its speciality is that it is made of all natural and whole foods.

There are plenty of good things about Mediterranean diet, and it is considered as the healthiest way of life.

Mediterranean diet contains

Vegetable oils – mainly olive oil, peanut oil, soy, ground nut, canola .sunflower oil etc. – Which are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins like E, reduce HDL cholesterol, which is good for the heart, vessels brain functioning and skin too.

Vegetables: Plenty of fresh vegetables of all types except starchy vegetables are taken in this diet. As vegetables are rich in minerals, vitamins with plenty of fibre and anti-oxidants, they are very good for heart, bowel health and overall metabolism and

Should be consumed with every meal.

Fish – As we all know fish are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids , which are important for heart and brain ,hence fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel and advised .These are rich in fat soluble vitamins such as A,D, ,E and K which are necessary for bone health, heart health and in fighting inflammation, to be taken 0-2 times a day .

Fruits and nuts – fresh fruits and nuts provide vitamins, essential fatty acids and protein for muscle .2-3 servings of fruit are taken per day.

Other essentials –

Whole grains, Legumes – Rich in fibre, contain vitamins and protein

Dairy Products, such as milk, and yoghurt, provide calcium and vitamins.

Lean meat – fresh from poultry is taken.

Eggs – 0-2 times a day.

Plenty of water – Not to forget 2-3 litres of water.

Reap the immense Benefit with Mediterranean Diet

Bone health-the calcium in diary, vitamin D from diary, fish maintain bone health.

Heart – Unsaturated fatty acids in fish and nuts keep the good cholesterol high, prevent clogging of vessels, and maintain a good circulation of blood.

Nervous system – The unsaturated fatty acids in fish and nuts are important part of for cell membrane, neural conduction, and brain functioning.

Memory and cognitive functions- as important part of components of fish and nuts, the fatty acids are helpful in maintaining functioning of brain, especially in age related cognitive impairment.

Pain and inflammation – The unsaturated fatty acids, anti-oxidants from the fruits and vegetables, help fight inflammation and related pain symptoms. They give relief of pain menstruation, arthritis etc.. The magnesium in fruits and vegetables also helps in muscle and bone metabolism and pain control.

Helpful in type 2 diabetes. Reduced sugar levels, better insulin sensitivity and the physical activity help in maintaining sugar metabolism.

Skin -The vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, adequate hydration and physical activity improves blood circulation and gives healthy glowing skin.

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease: As already mentioned, fish are brain healthy foods. The reduced cholesterol, and blood glucose, keep the blood vessels healthy, which maintain a better flow to the brain especially as we age. This reduces age related changes in the brain.

Cancer -The antioxidants in the foods help reduce the oxidative damage, cell abnormalities which result in over growth.

Mood and mental health – Balanced food, with enough minerals and vitamins, with proper placing of meals in a good social setting keeps people in good mood, maintains energy and reduces stress.

Weight and metabolism – The fibre rich diet maintains blood sugar, maintains insulin levels, along with exercise keep the weight and metabolism in control.

What to avoid in a Mediterranean diet –

Processed foods are not a part of this diet. Particularly processed meat is avoided. Red meat is not encouraged. Polished grains, white bread, white pasta, soda, sweets, additives, packaged foods .No starchy vegetables allowed.

Small amount of alcohol, limited to red wine is allowed.

■ Not only the foods, a slow mind full eating, regular physical activity is mandatory according to this diet system. At least 30 to 40 minutes of moderate physical activity is necessary to maintain a healthy metabolism.


According to me, this diet is clean, and good for everybody.

But calorie counting, portion control, control of red wine need attention. For vegetarians not consuming enough proteins may be an issue and sensitivity to natural foods has to keep in mind, little bit of planning and slight modification based on individual requirements will have to be done.

Certain modification based on individual needs, body composition and metabolism are to be kept in mind.


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