Unlike with some other diets where the rules are clear and set (sometimes even too strict), with this way of eating you don’t have to worry much. There is an abundance of ways to follow the Mediterranean diet. The beauty of this way of eating is the liberty it provides when it comes to food choices. There are guidelines, but they are not as strict as some other diets. Let’s list the main foods and drinks you will eat if you go Mediterranean:
Fruits and vegetables
You can’t imagine a Mediterranean meal without vegetables, and if you see someone from the Mediterranean snacking, it is probably on fruit. Fruits and vegetables might be the main reason this diet works so well. Not only are they rich in fiber and therefor satiating and gut-friendly, they also carry a plethora of vitamins and minerals.
You should stock up on leafy greens that will be the base for most of your salads. There is lettuce, spinach, arugula, and watercress, and you can also try corn salad and Chinese cabbage.
For fruit and other vegetables, you can’t go wrong, as long as it is fresh and has no added sugar. There is no fruit that is less Mediterranean than another. However, people in the Mediterranean usually eat seasonal fruit and vegetables, so you might want to consider that if you are someone who craves tomato in December and ends up eating something that vaguely resembles a tomato at a huge price. Not only are seasonal fruits and vegetables more budget friendly, they are usually healthier, tastier and easier to find.
People from the Mediterranean have never eaten much pork or beef. This might be because they did not have much cattle, or because bovines were more useful working in the field than as food (the terrain was pretty unforgiving), but regardless of the reason, people ate less meat from pigs, cows and goats.
For this reason, people from the Mediterranean have a much lower risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Red meat contains saturated fats and is high in calories, especially when compared to seafood, fish and legumes.
Before you ditch the red meat altogether, it is not all bad. Red meat is higher in creatine than other meats, and it contains minerals that are otherwise difficult to consume in large quantities. Just keep your consumption moderate.
Red wine is pretty much the same deal. It is not inherently bad, but people tend to misuse it too often for doctors to recommend it in good conscience. It is understandable why people think that wine is an irreplaceable part of the Mediterranean diet. After all, almost every movie or picture showcasing this part of the world has somebody reaching for a bottle of good old red.
Like with most things, the takeaway with red wine is not that alcohol is bad in and of itself, but rather that you should limit the amount you consume if you want to reap the benefits without the adverse effects. The general guideline is to keep your alcohol consumption under 14 units per week.
Eggs and dairy
Eggs and dairy are not forbidden in the Mediterranean diet, but they are to be eaten in moderation. I am not saying eggs and dairy are bad for you, but people on the Mediterranean diet curb them because their fat requirements are already met through olive oil, oily fish, seafood, avocado, seeds and nuts. However, you can still eat them from time to time. Eggs are versatile, affordable, and a complete protein.
Milk is another thing we try to consume in smaller quantities when following this diet, but there are some milk products that are quite common in the Mediterranean diet, such as Greek yoghurt, kefir and fresh cheese.
Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are an amazing source of complete protein that comes cheap calorie wise. They are also a rich source of healthy fatty acids, most notably omega-3s. Depending on where you live, some fish may be easier or more difficult to find, but remember to include both white fish (richer in protein) and red fish (richer in healthy fats) in your diet.
It’s difficult to say how much of a good thing is too much, and the main reason for caution when it comes to seafood is the possibility of mercury poisoning. For most people this is not a problem, but it can be dangerous for pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding, as well as for the children. The rule of thumb is: try to eat seafood at least twice a week, and try to limit fish that is highest in mercury (tuna, halibut, shark, swordfish, etc.).
Another thing to look out for is allergies and food sensitivities. Some people react to seafood strongly, and their stomachs give them hell after a meal. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there was something wrong with the shrimp or that the squid has gone bad. It’s more likely that you lack the enzymes needed to digest certain types of seafood. What’s worse is that you can be totally fine eating clams, and then experience stomach discomfort after eating oysters. Go easy on yourself and figure out what works best for you. If you are trying something for the first time, trust me, try it at home.
Olive oil, herbs and spices
Olive oil can fit into the previous category as it is another source of healthy fats, but it deserves a place of its own, due to its popularity and prevalence in this diet. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a single Mediterranean dish that doesn’t include olive oil.
Oleic acid, the largest part (3/4) of olive oil has many proven health benefits, most famously, reducing inflammation and decreasing the risk of cancer (it has beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer, and a high amount of antioxidants). Additionally, olive oil can promote brain health and improve cognitive function, and it has antibacterial properties.
Herbs and spices are in this category because they go hand in hand with olive oil. Also, they are part of the reason the Mediterranean diet is so healthy. One thing we don’t lack in this day and age is sodium. Yes, we need it, but not nearly as much as we tend to consume. Replacing salt with spices and herbs can make a big difference, not only from curbing the amount of sodium we consume, but also because of the health benefits of herbs and spices such as basil, parsley, sage, saffron, rosemary, thyme and oregano.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a staple food in many diets, due to their high protein and healthy fat content. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and Brazil nuts all make excellent allies in the fight for brain health and longevity.
Not only are they rich in antioxidants and fiber, they are also rich in vitamins and minerals that most of us lack. For a long time, nuts and seeds had a bad rep due to the misconception that fats make you fat. Now that we know caloric surplus is what makes us gain weight, healthy fats are back in the game. It’s always a bad idea to exclude an entire food group from your diet, and fats have been banished for far too long. Fats are important for our general health, but especially our heart, brain and eyesight.
However, fats are more calorie expensive (yes, even the good kind). As we established earlier, in comparison to 4Kcal per gram for protein and carbs, a gram of fat holds 9Kcal. Even though there is no mechanism that changes nuts to belly fat immediately, we have to be aware of the fact that it can be easy to overeat on nuts and seeds.
In addition to eating a diet full of healthy foods, it is also important to avoid eating sugary foods and fast food.
These unhealthy processed foods are filled with harmful ingredients. It will make you fat and bring you all kinds of other health problems.
Do you think we missed some other foods that could help you lose belly fat as well? Comment below and share us! We would like to hear about it!