Myths vs. Facts: Should You Follow the Mediterranean Diet?

June 22, 2021
Should You Follow the Mediterranean Diet?

Get the facts about the Mediterranean diet so you can decide if it's right for you.

The Mediterranean diet, which is based on the eating habits of people in Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece, consistently tops U.S. News & World Report's "Best Diets" list. But, with so many diet options out there, what is it that makes the Mediterranean diet so special?

Myths vs Facts about the Mediterranean diet and to help you decide if it's right for you.

The Mediterranean diet is a low-fat, low-calorie diet plan.

  • Myth: The Mediterranean diet is actually considered fairly high in both fat and calories, but it focuses on getting a large portion of calories from healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and fatty fish and avoiding saturated fat and trans fat. When following the plan and paying attention to portion sizes, there's usually no need to closely count calories.

The Mediterranean diet requires you to eliminate alcohol completely.

  • Myth: Unlike other diets which strictly forbid alcohol, the Mediterranean diet allows a moderate intake – defined as no more than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women. Although there are no strict rules on which type of alcohol to drink, red wine which is rich in health-promoting compounds called polyphenols is recommended.

The Mediterranean diet is considered a plant-based eating plan.

  • Fact: Vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans and lentils), nuts, seeds and whole grains provide the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. While the diet isn't a vegetarian plan (eating seafood a few times a week is encouraged), it does recommend limiting red meat consumption as much as possible.

The Mediterranean diet helps prevent heart disease and stroke.

  • Fact: The Mediterranean diet may help prevent heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States. That's because the plan is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower your triglyceride levels and keep your heart healthy. A diet rich in healthy fats also helps remove extra cholesterol from the body and prevents the build-up of plaque in the arteries.

The Mediterranean diet helps you age better.

  • Fact: Research shows that following a diet plan like the Mediterranean diet can contribute to healthy aging by protecting you from mental decline and reducing your risk of chronic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and even cancer. In one study, women who followed a Mediterranean diet were 46% more likely to age healthfully than women who didn't.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 5, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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