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Mediterranean Diet: Health Benefits, Rules & Meal Plan

The Mediterranean diet is based on two very simples principles: 1) eating fresh natural foods, such as olive oil, fruits, vegetables, cereals, milk, and cheese, and 2) avoiding industrially processed foods, such as frozen meals, fast food or meat products.

This type of diet is more about healthy eating than food restriction, and it works by providing the body with essential nutrients that help improve metabolism and encourage weight loss.

Mediterranean Diet: Health Benefits, Rules & Meal Plan

Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet 

The Mediterranean diet is not just for weight loss. It's a healthy eating lifestyle that can have major health benefits such as:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and degenerative diseases;
  • Preventing from arteriosclerosis and thrombosis;
  • Preventing cognitive decline and Alzheimer's;
  • Weight loss.

To best follow the Mediterranean diet and get all of these benefits it is recommended that you prefer fresh, non-processed, seasonal, and local foods. You should also try to buy from small markets and fruit shops, rather than from big supermarkets. 

8 rules simple to follow the Mediterranean diet

There are 8 simple rules that can help anyone follow the Mediterranean diet:

1. Avoid processed foods 

Your diet must be based on natural products, especially those of plant origin, such as olive oil, brown rice or soy. In addition, you must avoid industrially processed foods, such as frozen meals, fast food or meat products, opting for homemade versions instead.

Removing processed foods will help decrease the accumulation of toxins inside the body, reducing inflammation, helping with weight loss and combating fluid retention.

2. Eat fish and seafood 3 times a week

You should eat fish or seafood at least three times a week, as these are great sources of animal protein and healthy fats, such as omega-3, which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, helping to relieve pain in the joints, improving blood circulation and preventing heart disease. 

3. Use olive oil regularly

Olive oil and other vegetable oils, such as canola and flaxseed oils, are rich in healthy fats that can help reduce high cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease.

To get these benefits you simply need to add olive oil, or any other vegetable oil, to your food, and have at least two tablespoons a day. When you're cooking, frying or grilling you can also use olive oil.

4. Eat more whole-grain foods

The Mediterranean diet is rich in whole foods such as rice, whole-wheat flour, oats, and whole-wheat pasta, which are rich in vitamins and minerals and improve body functions, fight constipation and decrease sugar absorption in the intestine.

Besides whole-grain foods, your diet should also include protein-rich vegetables such as beans, soy, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed, which also help strengthen muscles and improve metabolism.

Mediterranean Diet: Health Benefits, Rules & Meal Plan

5. Eat more fruits and leafy greens 

Increasing your intake of fruits and leafy greens provides fiber, vitamins and minerals that speed up metabolism and stimulate satiety, helping with weight loss. It is recommended you eat at least three different types of fruit a day. A good habit is to eat one piece of fruit after each meal.

6. Prefer skimmed milk and milk products 

To improve your diet and decrease body fat, prefer skimmed milk, eat natural yogurt and white cheese such as ricotta or cottage, and always choose skimmed versions. If you feel like you need to sweeten natural yogurt, just add a coffee spoon of honey or jam.  

7. Avoid eating red meat

Red meat should be limited to only once a week, so there is room for meals with other good protein sources such as eggs, fish, and whole-grain foods, such as rice and beans, rice and lentils or rice and peas.

8. Only drink water

The best type of drink you can have is water. If you don't like the flavor of plain water, you can drink flavored water by adding lemon or ginger slices to a jar of water. You can also have one glass of wine, approx. 6 oz (180 ml) per day.

Mediterranean diet meal plan 

Here is an example of a 3-day Mediterranean diet meal plan:

 Day 1Day 2Day 3
Breakfast1 glass of skimmed milk + 1 wholegrain bread roll with ricotta + 1 slice of papayaBanana and apple smoothie made with skim milk  + 2 tablespoons of oatsPorridge made with 200 ml of skim milk + 2 tablespoons of oats + 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
Morning Snack3 wholegrain slices of toast + butter + 2 chestnuts1 cup of green smoothie made with cabbage, lemon, and carrot + 3 plain cookies or corn crackers1 natural yogurt + 1 teaspoon of chia seeds
Lunchhalf a salmon steak + 2 boiled potatoes drizzled in olive oil and broccoli 1 grilled chicken breast with tomato sauce + 4 tablespoons of brown rice + 2 tablespoons of beansTuna pasta with pesto sauce. Use whole-grain pasta 
Afternoon Snack1 natural yogurt + 1 teaspoon of flaxseed + 1 tapioca with low-fat cheese + 1 banana1 natural yogurt + 1 whole-grain bread roll with cottage cheese  + 6 strawberries1 cup of beetroot, carrot, ginger, lemon, and apple smoothie + 1 wholegrain bread roll with ricotta cheese 
Dinner1 chicken thigh cooked with 2 tablespoons of peas  + fresh lettuce salad with tomato and red onion  + 1 pear1 grilled turkey steak + salad of cabbage, grated carrot and beetroot + 1 slice of pineapple1 omelet made with 2 eggs + panfried cabbage with onion, garlic and eggplant + 1 orange

This meal plan is best if you use fresh vegetables and fruits, and it's important you add 1 tablespoon of olive oil on your plate at lunch and dinner. 

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