8 Scientific Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

If there’s one so-called diet that is widely acclaimed for its health benefits, it’s the Mediterranean diet. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Mediterranean diet No. 1 on its 2019 41 Best Diets Overall list, citing a “host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control.” (1)

More of an eating pattern than a calorie-restricted diet, the Mediterranean regimen emphasizes eating lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, seeds, and fish, with liberal use of olive oil, a moderate amount of dairy foods, and a low amount of red meat — a way of eating common in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy, and Greece, noted an article published in June 2018 the journal Current Atherosclerosis Reports. (2)

Followers avoid processed foods that are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats (think: chips, cookies, cake, white bread, white rice, and the like). But they do drink a little red wine socially during meals. The Mediterranean pattern focuses on enjoying food and drink with loved ones, along with being physically active, and always keeping moderation in mind. Notably, though, there’s no counting — be it calories, fat grams, or glycemic load — by which to gauge that moderation. (2)

“I look at it as a Mediterranean lifestyle. It’s not so much what they eat, which is beneficial and anti-inflammatory; it’s in how they eat it,” says Robert E. Graham, MD, MPH, an integrative medicine physician at Physio Logic in Brooklyn, New York. “They eat it with gusto, flavor. They eat it with family members.”