Dietitian Melissa Meier weighs in on the popular diet and why there is one major flaw.
The Mediterranean Diet is in a class of its own when it comes to good-for-you eating patterns.
Balanced, sensible and jam-packed with oh-so-healthy fodder, the Med Diet has a raft of scientific evidence to back up its reputation as one of the heathiest diets on the planet. But are there any downsides? Turns out, there might be just one…
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What are the pros of the Mediterranean Diet?
Meat lovers pizza… buttery, cheesy risotto… tiramisu… the meals served up at your local Italian are probably what you wish the health-giving Mediterranean diet entails… but the reality is, it’s a far cry from it. A true Mediterranean eating pattern is made up of:
- Lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes and garlic
- Legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils
- Whole grains like whole grain pasta, barley and rolled oats
- A generous amount of extra virgin olive oil (up to four tablespoons a day)
- Plenty of herbs and spices for flavor
- Fresh, seasonal fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Small portions of seafood, poultry, eggs and dairy
- Minimal portions of red meat and sweets
- Small portions of red wine enjoyed with occasional meals, if desired
As a whole, this eating pattern is rich in nutritional goodness, including gut-loving fiber, heart-healthy fats and disease-fighting antioxidants. It’s so good for you, in fact, that research has linked the Mediterranean diet with protection against cognitive decline and even diseases like bowel cancer.
The Mediterranean Diet may also benefit people with conditions like diabetes, heart disease and depression. Sounds rather impressive, right?!
Are there any downsides to the Mediterranean Diet?
As a dietitian, I’d rarely jump on the bandwagon of a popular diet – but I will happily break my own rules when it comes to the Mediterranean way of eating. That’s because it’s jam-packed with humble whole foods, is nutritionally sound, has a solid scientific evidence base and, best of all, is not restrictive… even red wine is on the menu!
If you’re going on the Mediterranean Diet for a quick fix health kick, however, I’ve got another opinion.
You see, there’s no such thing as a magical elixir – and forcing yourself to follow the Med Diet for a couple of weeks just to lose a few kilos isn’t the answer to long-term good health. No matter how sensible your ‘diet’ is, if you’re adopting a dieting mindset (think: short term pain for long term gain), you’re bound to fail.
If you want to improve your health for the long haul, what I’d encourage you to do is slowly build the healthy habits of the Med Diet into your routine, rather than going hell-for-leather and trying to perfect it the first time round.
In other words: don’t think of it as a ‘diet’ in the traditional sense of the word, where there’s a strict set of rules you’re ‘not allowed’ to deter from. That way, you’ll slowly start to eat more veggies, swap refined grains for whole grains, snack on nuts and so on – and overtime, you’ll become the healthiest version of yourself, without feeling like you’re just on another ‘ diet’. Ole!
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can follow her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.
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