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Mediterranean diet: 12 things you must remember to avoid health risks

The Mediterranean diet includes high intake of fruits and vegetables and limited intake of processed foods. However, there are certain risks associated with it.
A plate of vegetables
Mediterranean diet allows you to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry. Image courtesy: Pexels
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 16 Mar 2024, 08:59 am IST
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A Mediterranean diet is about consuming fruits, vegetables, legumes, poultry and fish, and a limited intake of processed foods. It is considered to be one of the most well-rounded and nutritious diets that can help to promote your health by keeping heart diseases at bay and keeping cholesterol levels in check.

However, while the diet is known for weight loss, you might actually end up putting on weight as there are no exact rules about the eating style. Additionally, it can also lead to some stomach problems, especially if you have digestive diseases such as celiac disease. Health Shots got in touch with dietitian Garima Goyal, to understand what is Mediterranean diet and its likely health risks.

What is Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional pattern inspired by the traditional dietary habits of people living in the Mediterranean region, particularly countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain. “It emphasises whole, minimally processed foods, with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. These plant-based foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, contributing to a well-rounded and nutritious diet,” says Goyal. Olive oil is a cornerstone of this diet, serving as the primary source of healthy fats. Rich in monounsaturated fats, olive oil has been linked to various health benefits, including heart health.

Also Read: Keto vs Mediterranean diet: What’s better for longevity?

In addition to plant-based foods, the Mediterranean diet includes moderate amounts of lean proteins, such as fish and poultry. Fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and mackerel, is a key component that supports cardiovascular health. Legumes, nuts, and seeds are also integral parts of the diet, providing protein, fiber, and a range of essential nutrients. Whole grains, like whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa, are preferred over refined grains in the Mediterranean diet. Red meat and sweets are consumed sparingly, reflecting a more balanced approach to protein and added sugars. Dairy products, particularly yogurt and cheese, are included in moderation.

A woman cutting capsicum
It is imperative to focus on only eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed foods. Image courtesy: Pexels

Risks of Mediterranean diet

1. May lead to weight gain

Unlike other diets such as Keto and Paleo, the Mediterranean diet does not come with a set of rules of how much to eat. It relies heavily on olive oil and nuts, and these are high in calories. Therefore, it is important to make sure to calculate these calories in your daily calorie plan.

2. Might have processed foods

The diet focusses on healthy, fresh food, but labels such as Vegan and Healthy might lead to people consuming too many processed items, especially if they are claimed to be specially made for Mediterranean diet. Therefore, as with any dietary pattern, adherence to the core principles is crucial for maximising its health benefits.

3. People might overlook portion size

While the Mediterranean diet emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole foods, consuming excessive portions can still contribute to an overabundance of calories, potentially impacting weight management and overall health. It’s crucial for individuals to be mindful of portion sizes, even when choosing healthier foods. Overeating, even with nutritious options, can lead to an imbalance in energy intake and expenditure, potentially contributing to weight gain.

4. Slow results

There is a risk of disappointment when individuals expect rapid results from the Mediterranean diet due to its hype. While the diet is celebrated for its long-term health benefits and overall well-being, it’s not designed as a quick fix for weight loss or other immediate health outcomes. It’s essential for people to approach the Mediterranean diet with realistic expectations and an understanding that its effectiveness is often seen in the context of long-term adherence.

5. Alcohol consumption

One notable aspect of the Mediterranean diet is the inclusion of red wine in moderation, particularly with meals. The antioxidants found in red wine, such as resveratrol, have been associated with certain health benefits. However, it’s important to note that excessive alcohol consumption can have adverse effects on health, so moderation is key.

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Also Read: Mediterranean Diet 101: All you must know about this healthy way of eating

Things to remember while following the Mediterranean diet

Here’s a more detailed explanation of the key points to remember while following the Mediterranean diet:

1. Emphasise plant-based foods

Make fruits and vegetables the mainstay of your meals. Aim to fill your plate with a colourful variety of produce, as they provide essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants.

2. Use healthy fats

Choose extra virgin olive oil as your primary cooking oil and for salad dressings. This type of oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, contributing to heart health.

3. Moderate protein intake

Include a variety of protein sources such as fish, poultry, legumes, and nuts. These options offer a mix of essential nutrients while helping to maintain a balanced diet. Limit red meat and processed meats.

A woman on a weighing scale
The Mediterranean diet leads to weight loss, but it’s not rapid in nature. Image courtesy: Pexels

4. Incorporate fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for at least two servings per week to support cardiovascular health.

5. Choose whole grains

Opt for whole grains over refined grains. Whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, and oats provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also contribute to better blood sugar control.

6. Limit processed foods

Minimise the consumption of processed and refined foods, including snacks, sugary beverages, and foods high in unhealthy fats. Stick to whole, minimally processed options for better overall health.

7. Moderate dairy

Include moderate amounts of dairy, with a focus on sources like Greek yogurt and cheese. These provide calcium and other essential nutrients. Be mindful of portion sizes.

8. Enjoy fruits as dessert

Instead of reaching for sugary desserts, satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruits. They offer natural sweetness along with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.

9. Herbs and spices for flavour

Use herbs and spices liberally to add flavour to your dishes. This not only enhances the taste but also reduces the need for excessive salt and unhealthy condiments.

10. Practice mindful eating

Sit down for meals, savour each bite, and be aware of your hunger and fullness cues. Eating in a relaxed setting and paying attention to your food fosters a healthier relationship with eating.

11. Stay hydrated

Water is the preferred beverage in the Mediterranean diet. Limit sugary drinks and alcohol. Red wine can be enjoyed in moderation, typically with meals.

12. Be active

Regular physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Incorporate exercise into your routine to complement the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.


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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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