Everyone is looking for the best diet, the one that’s going to be the magic bullet that transforms them with zero effort into the body of their dreams.
Will the Mediterranean Diet do that for you? Hell no. Will any diet? Heck no. But the right diet can be a huge help.
However, not all diets are created equal. There are some real stinkers out there that can also be downright dangerous to your well-being and destructive to your health. There are more of those than there are great ones that improve your health while losing weight.
Is this diet one of them?
Read on as we take a good look at this insanely popular diet and see if it lives up to the hype or needs to be a distant memory.
Remember, just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Soda, sugar, cigarettes, and fast food are popular in various population segments but are horrible for your health and wellbeing.
So, after the disclaimer, let’s dive right in, shall we?
Disclaimer: The following is for educational purposes only. We are not advocating a change in dietary, health or exercise protocols. Please seek the advice or council of your nutritionally educated health care practitioner prior to engaging in any dietary or exercise changes.
This diet is followed by many of the people bordering the Mediterranean Sea from such countries as Italy, Greece, and Spain. Despite its proximity to the same sea, France has opted to stick to its traditional cuisine.
That is not to say that there aren’t many French who do follow the diet, it’s just noting that the vast majority of France has stayed with the traditional French culinary arts.
The diet consists mainly of plant-based foods such as grains, beans, vegetables, and some local fruits, along with fresh fish and seafood from the sea, with meat and dairy being mostly used infrequently as treats or for special occasions like family gatherings.
The chief source of extra fat in the diet is olive oil. The jury is still out on whether or not olive oil is heart-healthy.
Here we would have to insert that edible oils such as olive oil are not found in nature. You can’t just walk up to an olive tree and find an oil spigot growing out of the side for you to put your mouth under and drink from.
We will in virtually all cases, concede to the side of nature. If you can’t find it readily available in nature, you must not be able to eat it. At least regularly.
That might be the argument for honey. Natural, hard to find, you paid a price for getting to it (bee stings), and when you and your tribe ate it, everyone fell into a diabetic coma and had a hard time remembering their names for a day or two.
However, you may have only done this 3 or 4 times per year, with each person eating maybe 10 teaspoons worth in that one sitting, depending on the size of your tribe and the amount of honey you could get.
Today, the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar every day.
That’s not raw honey, which has a few health benefits; that’s pure sugar in the forms of corn syrup, corn syrup solids, sucrose, dextrose, and others that spike blood sugar like mad.
Yes, you could argue that honey hits the blood sugar just as hard. We did allude to that by saying they all passed out. But our main argument is that they did it a few times per year, and the average American does double that per day.
The same thing with oils.
Eat 10 olives right off the tree, not pickled. Okay, eat 20, no problem. The oil is bound up in the fiber and will take hours to slowly release into your bloodstream.
A tablespoon of olive oil hits your system in seconds and all at once.
This is the difference.
So, is the diet as healthy as many claims? Have a look under the hood and see for yourself.
History Of The Mediterranean Diet?
Since no one person invented it, history is a long and windy path. This was not a diet developed by a researcher in a laboratory; this is a diet that developed slowly over hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
The biggest variable in the founding of the diet was the geographical location. People ate and adapted to their diets and to what was growing around them. Yes, then trade routes were established, and people began to have greater variety in their diets. New seeds from exotic plants were cultivated, and these too were integrated into the diet.
This is how it is with most diets around the world. There are/were very few fully isolated people, and so, that’s how the English sailors became known as limey, even though limes are not native to England. Trade routes, exploration, and the like, were the real change-makers in the diets of those along their paths.
However, for the most part, the people in the region of the Mediterranean Sea had it pretty good as far as early people. They had a good amount of grain that could be grown and fish that could be caught.
The sunny semi-arid climate made growing fruits and vegetables that were both local and brought in by trade a reasonably easy way to go.
What Types Of Foods Can you Eat On The Mediterranean Diet?
The true Mediterranean diet was centered around vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and very limited amounts of sugar in the diet. They typically consumed fish two or three times per week, and their main source of the desert was fruits.
Two of the things that dramatically contributed to their overall health were the fact that
A) They generally consumed meals together with their families, which does two things. It stops people from grossly overeating because the other family members are watching them. They will say something and intervene before it becomes a problem.
Then, you typically eat slower when carrying on conversations. This leads to greater feelings of fullness from the food you’ve eaten so that you don’t just keep eating before your hunger bells signal it’s time to stop.
B) They had mottos such as “everyone works.” That’s a roughly translated Greek saying. The meaning behind it is that if you expect to eat, you contribute to hunting, fishing, farming, or preparation.
Why would this be a secret to health? Good question. It means that everyone is physically active. Today, we watch TV and order pizza while guzzling beer or soda. If we had to participate in the food growing, hunting, fishing, or preparation processes like they did, we would weigh quite a bit less on average.
This all hands in system, where you had to help out to get your share, helped keep them fit and trim. We could learn a lesson from them that is sorely needed in our western countries today.
What Results Can You Get On The Mediterranean Diet?
Is this diet the best in the world? No, it’s not. Several things could be improved upon.
Is it better than our standard American diet? Oh heck yes.
So, when you come from a standard diet and all of a sudden start eating a Mediterranean diet, you’re going to have some massive health changes. Quite typically, your blood lipids and cholesterol will improve, your blood sugar levels will improve, and you’ll likely start reducing inflammation.
People underestimate the importance of getting inflammation under control. We won’t go into it here, but just suffice it to say that it’s believed that low-grade chronic inflammation is responsible for or an underlying factor in at least 90% to 95% of all chronic illnesses that the western world faces today.
So, yeah, reducing the amount of inflammation your body has to deal with on a day-to-day basis is a very, very big deal.
Studies have also shown that eating whole plant-based foods associated with the Mediterranean diet can reduce the instances of heart attack and stroke by upwards of 80% to 90% and 70%, respectively.
That is to say that, it’s not the Mediterranean diet that’s doing it, the results are being had by switching to whole food plant-based eating, whether that comes from this diet or any other.
Weight Loss Results:
This is the thing you’ve all been waiting for. Does, the Mediterranean diet help you to lose weight faster or better than other diets?
The answer is no.
In multiple studies with quite large sample groups, the people eating this diet had about a middle-of-the-road result. It was a darn sight better than the SAD (Standard American Diet) but didn’t win out over a few other diets.
The key to weight loss with this diet is the same as nearly all others; that is, you must reduce calories via your diet or burn them off with increased exercise. Preferably both.
It trounced SAD mostly because of its low sugar content and reduction in systemic inflammation. It was trounced by the vegan diet because the diet contains even more whole food plant-based ingredients. So, it was about the middle of the road. Not the worst, not the best.
Now, we would like to let you in on a little secret.
So long as your diet is in the ultra-healthy category, which the Mediterranean diet would be getting close to (not quite but getting closer), it’s at that point all dependent on whether or not you can stay on it long term or not.
Can you reduce your calories by either diet or exercise and stay on it?
If you can do that, then more than likely you’ll have success.
The reason we say ultra-healthy is that we don’t want to see you sacrifice your health for weight loss when you really don’t have to.
Is The Mediterranean Diet Good For Athletes?
Yes and no. The reason that we have to say it this way is that it depends on what type of athlete we are talking about. As for bodybuilding, we will cover that in our answer to that question below.
For long-distance athletes, it can be made to work. You’ll likely have to add in the extra calories you burn from grains and legumes so that your body’s fuel stays carb-rich.
For sprinters, you’re looking at about the same, except possibly a little lower calories since you’re training for intensity and not the crazy distances some of those athletes put in.
Soccer players and sports like that, yes it can work, but instead of fish 2 or 3 times per week, you might need it once per day unless you’re willing to get the proteins and essential fats you need from plant sources, which are superior by the way.
Can The Mediterranean Diet Be Used For Bodybuilding?
Yes, but only if you’re willing to structure your diet to get in more protein from fish and plant-based sources. You’ll likely have to consume half or more of your protein from foods like lentils and beans and get the other half from fish.
If you’re OK with this, then yes, this system can and will work for you. If not, then no.
Is The Mediterranean Diet Sustainable For The Long Term?
Yes, it is. Especially, in comparison to the western diet, or SAD, of fast food, copious amounts of sugar, and animal fat that is solid at room temperature. According to multiple studies, the diet can lower cholesterol, blood lipids, heart attack, and stroke rates over the SAD or the bulk of western diets today.
Is the Mediterranean diet the best diet for you?
We suppose that will be based more on you as a person and your circumstances.
If it’s the type of diet that you can stay on for the long term, then yes, it can work for you. If, on the other hand, you know you’ll have to stop using it eventually, you’d be better off starting a diet that you can stick to.
Adherence to the diet is the key to the success of the diet. No matter which diet you’re on.