How to Start the Mediterranean Diet

by Dr. Nick Zyrowski November 25, 2022

If you’re like a lot of people, you may be looking for an edge when it comes to eating healthy. Whether you want to lose a few pounds, gain muscle, or improve your overall wellness, diet is a crucial part of that.

It can be overwhelming when you try to find the right approach to dieting. Which is the best one for you? There are so many to choose from that some people give up and revert back to the Standard American Diet full of processed carbs and sugar.

The truth is that many different diets can be healthy depending on what you want to get from them. The critical thing with any eating plan is knowing your reason for it. Why are you choosing one specific plan over another? If you’re looking for a healthy diet that has lots of options with tasty foods, the Mediterranean diet may be for you. Let’s take a look at how you can start this eating plan and what it has to offer your health.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Rather than a diet fad, the Mediterranean diet has been around for a long time. It’s based on traditional Greek cuisine. This diet is not the latest trend where you pay for some processed food to arrive in a box every month. Instead, this way of eating focuses on fresh foods that include colorful items and doesn’t rely on heavily processed ingredients. (1)

The primary focus of the Mediterranean diet is on foods like olive oil, vegetables, fish, seafood, chicken, nuts, and fruits. Many people also eat whole grains on this diet, but you can leave those out if you’re sensitive to them. The diet includes some red meat and dairy. Often Greek yogurt is added as a condiment.

One of the goals is to see a plate that visibly shows a ton of flavor. When you eat foods that taste good, you won’t crave all the unhealthy carbohydrates you used to eat. On the days you run short on time and haven’t gotten enough fruits and veggies in, you may opt for a healthy fruits and greens powder.

You may even be able to drink small amounts of alcohol, like red wine, on this diet, but you should limit it to one glass per day. Many people don’t drink alcohol at all on the Mediterranean diet.

Why choose this diet?

We mentioned that there are lots of eating styles that could work, so why choose this one? Some of that could depend on preferences. If a meat-heavy diet is not exactly what you want, this way of eating offers lots of fresh produce and includes herbs and spices that are healthy and tasty.

Many doctors recommend the Mediterranean diet to their patients for health reasons. In the 1950s, it was observed that heart disease was less prevalent in Mediterranean countries than in the United States. Studies show that this eating style may help prevent heart disease and stroke. (2)

You get to eat plenty of plant-based foods that are rich in vitamins. Most meals are built around vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

The Mediterranean diet can have weight-loss benefits that many people desire. It’s high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that work to fill nutritional needs and keep your immune system functioning well. The fiber in the diet also helps keep you full, so you don’t eat as much.

Another reason to choose this diet could be the brain health benefits. In 2016, studies found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with less cognitive decline. There was a reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and increased memory and brain function. (3)

You may notice that your mental health improves with this way of eating. Research has shown that consuming more fruit and vegetables, like dark, leafy greens and berries, may have a positive impact on depression and life satisfaction.

Getting started

If you decide to start eating the Mediterranean diet, you should fill your shopping cart with produce, nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish. You don’t have to prepare gourmet meals with this diet. Eating this way allows for canned mackerel, sardines, tuna, herring, and salmon. All these fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which lowers your risk of stroke and heart disease. Canned fish is a quick meal or snack you don’t have to cook. You can also add it to a salad or veggie dish for additional health benefits.

Get the best quality olive oil you can afford. You will use it frequently to prepare meals and as a finishing sauce. When eating the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a primary fat source, rather than butter. Many people save money by getting it when it’s on sale and storing it in the pantry until they need it.

To make it easy, most of your shopping will be around the perimeter of the grocery store. You will also get dairy, like cheese and plain yogurt if you tolerate them with no issues. If you want to get frozen berries and veggies, that’s fine, too. They have tons of antioxidants and other nutrients. Frozen berries are also great in a morning breakfast smoothie before school or work.

You don’t always have to buy fresh ingredients. Frozen fish also has health benefits, but you should opt for wild-caught, not farm-raised. Farm-raised fish often depends on feed that could contain ingredients you don’t want. (4)

If you don’t like the taste of most fish, you can also eat chicken. You won’t get the omega-3 fatty acids, so you should use a quality fish oil supplement if you forgo eating fish.

How to boost benefits

Exercise is part of the Mediterranean diet lifestyle. Getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily will help boost the effects. The key is to choose an exercise you enjoy that won’t feel like a chore every day.

Many people find getting out in nature to be helpful for exercise. Taking a brisk walk in the fresh air is incredible for your mood. Bike riding, hiking, and swimming are good for your health, too. You want to get your heart rate up and break a sweat. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and you don’t have to join a gym to get a great workout. (5)

If you find starting an exercise regimen hard at first, start slow and build your way up to it. Volunteering for fun community activities is a great way to get more active. Maybe you have a friend who needs some help doing something that requires physical movement. You can even mow your lawn and get in some steps. Do whatever you want to do that gets you up and moving.

The power of the plate

You may have heard the phrase that abs get built in the kitchen. That’s got plenty of truth in it, as you can’t exercise your way out of an unhealthy diet. There is power in food and making healthy choices. You have the ability to change the trajectory of your health simply by modifying how you eat and treat your body.

When you fuel your body with healthy foods, you’ll feel better and improve your overall wellness. Being a couch potato is not a badge of honor to wear. You deserve better, and incorporating exercise with a Mediterranean diet could drastically improve your health. Give yourself some time and see how much better you feel. As always, it’s our pleasure to help you obtain a healthier lifestyle. We also have member-exclusive videos on Dr. Z TV that you won’t find anywhere else. Consider becoming a member to get monthly content and member Q&As.

References :

https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/food/farm-raised-vs-wild-caught-seafood

https://familydoctor.org/mediterranean-diet/#:~:text=Remember%2C%20exercise%20helps%20boost%20the,makes%20you%20break%20a%20sweat.

https://www.mediterraneanliving.com/mediterranean-diet/guidelines-to-eating-mediterranean/step-nine-move/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16037-mediterranean-diet

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/take-your-diet-to-the-mediterranean

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7917059/best-foods-for-hormone-health-according-to-a-dietitian/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2016.00022/full

https://www.everydayhealth.com/mediterranean-diet/guide/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7536728/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan

https://foodinsight.org/what-is-the-mediterranean-diet/

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324221#mediterranean-diet

Dr. Nick Zyrowski
Dr. Nick Zyrowski



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