Why is the Mediterranean diet so good for you?

The Mediterranean diet was recently ranked by experts in the U.S. News & World Report as one of the healthiest ways you can eat. Along with winning the category for Best Overall Diet (for the fifth year running!), it was also voted the Best for Healthy Eating, Easiest to Follow and Best Plant-Based Diet. 

So, what is it about the Mediterranean diet that makes it so good for you? And is it possible to eat this way from your very own kitchen?

Discover the facts and learn how you can start eating the Mediterranean way—today—on the New Mayo Clinic Diet program.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern that has been around for a very long time. Actually, it is not so much a “diet” that’s bound by a set of hard-and-fast rules, as it is more of an eating style that incorporates ingredients that are traditionally eaten by people who reside along the banks of the Mediterranean Sea.

Overall, the diet emphasizes whole, minimally-processed foods. It focuses on filling its followers’ plates with mostly plants, rather than red meat, and leans on a variety of flavors that enhance—instead of hurt—your health. (Hello, herbs and spices! Goodbye, salt!) 

What are the health benefits?

In the search for longevity, scientists discovered that people residing in Southern Europe not only lived longer than those from many other parts of the world, but they also had much lower rates of cardiovascular disease. Over the last 50 years, the Mediterranean diet has become one of the world’s most well-studied eating patterns, and research has shown it has many health benefits. The Mediterranean diet was also chosen in the categories of Best Heart-Healthy Diet and Best Diabetes Diet.

Those who have followed the Mediterranean diet have seen a number of health benefits including lowering the risk of diabetes. Some additional benefits of eating a diet low in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat, such as the Mediterranean diet, include:

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • May reduce risk of strokes in women
  • Improved brain and gut health
  • Reduced cancer risk

How to follow the Mediterranean diet

The good news is, you don’t need to move to Southern Europe to put Mediterranean-style eating into practice. This way of eating is more about the types of foods you’re eating and less about counting calories or trying to stick to a long list of diet rules.

Following the Mediterranean eating pattern is possible with a few simple tweaks to your shopping list:

  • Make vegetables the hero of your dish. Fill your plate with less meat and more vegetables.
  • Go meatless at least once a week. Cook more meals with beans.
  • Enjoy fish and seafood twice a week. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are good for your heart and brain.
  • Eat some dairy. Enjoy plain Greek yogurt and small amounts of cheese.
  • Switch to whole grains. Skip white, refined grains and choose barley, brown rice, and oats.
  • Include fresh fruit. Eat it as a snack and enjoy it for dessert.
  • Let extra virgin olive oil become your go-to oil. Use it for cooking and salad dressings. (Yes, you can cook with extra virgin olive oil!)
  • Seek out healthy fats. Opt for avocados, nuts, and seeds.
  • Flavor your food with herbs and spices. Give up salt (or give it a break).
  • Save red meat and sugary desserts for special occasions. Your heart will thank you for it!

The New Mayo Clinic Diet makes planning Mediterranean meals simple

Since the New Mayo Clinic Diet is also a whole foods-based eating plan—which encourages consuming unlimited vegetables and fruits, along with whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and limiting red meat and sugar—it’s easy to put the Mediterranean diet into practice on the program.

Our team of dietitians have developed seven different meal plans which allow you to find and follow an eating style that suits your taste preferences. One of these meal plans is the Mediterranean diet.

The New Mayo Clinic Diet allows you to incorporate all the staple ingredients of the Mediterranean diet that are associated with good health and weight loss. You’ll find delicious recipes—like One pan fish stew with green beans & cherry tomatoes and Pita pizza with olives & roasted veggies—that promote heart health, weight loss, and provide an opportunity to eat more plant foods without completely giving up meat.

Wondering what a day on a plate looks like? Take a look at a sample of the Mediterranean meal plan.

Which plan is right for you?

Which plan is right for you?

Whether you're looking for a healthy weight-loss plan or considering weight-loss medication, discover which of our world-leading solutions is best for you.

Take the free assessment

Get our latest blog delivered to your inbox

I agree to receive emails from Mayo Clinic Diet (we respect your privacy).

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.