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Diets Deconstructed: Mediterranean Diet

Paleo, Keto, Low Carb. The types of diets are endless, and new ones seem to pop up every day. So, what are the differences and which ones are worth my time? We go to the experts in our series Diets Deconstructed.

Below, OhioHealth dietitian Emily Monfiletto, RD, LD, CCMS, gives the low-down on the Mediterranean Diet so you can decide if it’s right for you.

Diet Theory

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating primarily plant-based foods with a moderate amount of lean animal proteins and healthy fats. It does not eliminate food groups, and with olive oil, spices and red wine on the menu, it leaves room for plenty of flavor.

Expected Outcomes

What can the Mediterranean diet do for you? Experts agree that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy choice for most people. It can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your health. Studies have shown that it can lower “bad” cholesterol, improve heart health and reduce the chance of developing diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Encouraged Foods

The Mediterranean diet is all about REAL food. Stick to fresh, single ingredient foods whenever possible.

Eat mostly:

  • Vegetables: spinach, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots, onions, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, melons, figs, dates, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, etc.
  • Whole grains: whole grain bread and pasta, whole oats, brown rice, barley, etc.
  • Herbs and spices: garlic, basil, rosemary, etc.
  • Fish and other seafood: salmon, sardines, trout, shrimp, tuna, crab, etc.
  • Healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil, avocados and avocado oil

Eat in moderation:

  • Poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
  • Eggs: chicken, duck, quail
  • Dairy: cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir, etc. (choose mostly fermented dairy)
  • Red wine: (optional) no more than 5 oz. a day for women and no more than 10 oz. a day for men

Discouraged Foods

When following the Mediterranean diet, you want to avoid:

  • Added sugar: soft drinks, cookies, etc.
  • Refined grains: white bread and pasta, etc.
  • Saturated fats and trans fats: butter, margarine, many packaged foods, etc.
  • Processed meat: sausage, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
  • Highly processed foods: many things that come in packages and have multiple ingredients
  • Red meat: Small amounts of red meat are ok, no more than a few times a month

Dietitian’s Take

Who It’s For

Many people think of this as a diet for people with heart concerns, but it’s actually a good diet for everyone. If you’re interested in improving your overall health and your waistline, the Mediterranean diet is a great way to do it.

Ease of Use

This is a simple diet to follow. You’re not counting calories or measuring strict portion sizes. You’re just focusing on mostly plant-based options.


This diet is very sustainable. It includes a lot of variety with fruits and vegetables, seafood, legumes, nuts/seeds, whole grains and olive oil. The food is filling and flavorful.


There’s no need for supplements with the Mediterranean diet. It’s a balanced eating style that provides many vitamins, minerals and nutrients.


Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, and with this eating plan you should have plenty of energy for a good workout.

Bottom Line

You don’t have to follow this diet exactly to see its benefits. Even small changes can make a big difference. For example, just eating more vegetables and legumes can noticeably improve your health.

Looking to improve your nutrition? Contact us at the McConnell Heart Health Center, we’re ready to support you!


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