The Mediterranean Diet

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Expert Column

The Mediterranean Diet: What It Is

Some experts consider the "Mediterranean diet" -- rich in plant foods and monounsaturated fats -- to be one of the healthiest in the world. The Mediterranean diet has long been associated with heart health and longevity. Beyond that, it can also be an excellent weight loss plan, as long as you eat in moderation.

The Mediterranean coastal region stretches across Europe from Spain to the Middle East. Fifty years ago, scientists noticed that people living in this region tended to be healthy and live long lives, primarily because of their diet and lifestyle. Mediterranean cuisine varies by region, but is largely based on vegetables, fruits, olives, beans, whole grains, olive oil, and fish, along with a little dairy and wine. Additionally, the Mediterranean lifestyle includes leisurely dining and regular physical activity.

Studies show that calorie-controlled diets rich in plant foods, healthy fats, and lean protein -- like the Mediterranean diet -- are a nutritious formula for weight loss. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a Mediterranean diet was as effective as a low-fat diet for losing weight and also offered some metabolic benefits.

"Research continues to demonstrate that being physically active and eating a nutritious diet of primarily whole foods that are filling and satisfying can enable people to control weight," says cardiologist Arthur Agatston, MD, creator of the South Beach Diet, which is based on the Mediterranean diet model.

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