Best Mediterranean Diet for Weight Loss & Heart Health

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Searching for a healthy and balanced diet or at least the most effective one can often feel like a full-time job. Mediterranean diet, known for being the world’s healthiest diet, can prove to be the answer to all your fitness goals. It delivers a number of health benefits, which include improved heart health, weight loss, regulated digestion, improved cognition, eye care, and delayed aging.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Mediterranean diet is a healthy way of eating inspired by the cuisines of European countries including Greece, Italy, and Spain.

Every diet is different and affects every person in a slightly different way, but in recent decades, there has been some consensus that the healthiest diet you can choose is the Mediterranean diet. [1]

When some people think of eating a meal in Italy, they immediately picture heaping servings of pizza and pasta, but that isn’t the case for this diet. What the Mediterranean diet refers to is the traditional eating habits of the region, which are quite different than the carb-heavy cuisine we associate with the region today.

50 years ago, studies found that people in the Mediterranean region had some of the lowest levels of chronic disease in the world, as well as one of the longest life expectancy rates, despite lacking access to overly advanced medical services.

Mediterranean Diet Plan

Mediterranean diet consists of eating fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, healthy oils, whole grains, herbs, spices, and wine, among others. Rather than limiting food types, which other diets require, the Mediterranean diet focuses on replacing certain foods with healthier but similar options. The other primary reason why this diet is so popular is that the food is flavorful and there are plenty of options, making it easy to maintain and enjoy!

Fruits and Vegetables

healthy, raw ingredients

A healthy diet also needs to be well-balanced. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

One of the key staples of the Mediterranean diet is a high concentration of fruits and vegetables, which are usually consumed in some form at every meal. Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, some of the best foods in this category include spinach, red peppers, onions, carrots, kale, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, figs, pears, apples, bananas, grapes, and strawberries. [2]


Red meat is very rare in the Mediterranean diet but can be added 1-2 times per month on special occasions. Chicken is slightly more common and can be consumed 1-2 times per week, but the major source of animal protein comes from fish, which is also rich in trace minerals and beneficial fatty acids. Be sure to increase your intake of salmon, shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, sardines, and mackerel on this diet. [3]

Nuts and Seeds

These often overlooked aspects of a diet provide concentrated sources of beneficial fatty acids, as well as minerals, dietary fiber, and other active ingredients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Although some nuts and seeds are high in calories, they can be eaten in moderation, particularly things like almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and Macadamia nuts. [4]

Whole Grains

In terms of cereals to be consumed in a Mediterranean diet, whole grains are always the best option, as they have not been processed or hulled, so all of the nutrients remain intact. They are particularly rich in key nutrients that can be difficult to access in the rest of your diet, particularly in things like whole-grain pasta and bread, corn, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, and whole wheat. [5]

Healthy Oils

Perhaps the most recognizable part of a Mediterranean diet is the consistent use of olive oil. Used as cooking oil, a salad dressing, a condiment for bread, or in any other form, olive oil is a much healthier option than things like butter, margarine, or other vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids or monounsaturated fats. The best healthy oil options, aside from olive oil, are avocado oil and canola oil. [6]


When it comes to beverages, people are often confused by the heavy presence of wine in the Mediterranean diet. However, wine does offer certain antioxidants and cardiovascular benefits when consumed in moderation. Having 1 or 2 glasses of wine for women and men, respectively, is another appealing aspect of this healthiest diet. [7]


Found at almost every meal in some form, bean varieties like chickpeas, lentils, peas, and lentils are frequent elements of the Mediterranean diet. Legumes are densely packed with nutrients and fiber, making them quite filling, in addition to being a good source of protein. [8]

Herbs and Spices

One of the most dangerous aspects of your diet is your salt intake, as this can elevate blood pressure and compromise your heart health. It is also one of the most popular spices for food across the world. Using other herbs and spices, which are common in the Mediterranean diet, can deliver extra antioxidants and minerals, without putting your health at risk. These spices include garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, and basil. [9]

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

There are many health benefits to following the Mediterranean diet such as protection against diabetes, boosted heart health, lower inflammation, optimized digestion, delayed aging, and weight loss, among others.

Weight Loss

Many people think of the Mediterranean diet primarily as a weight-loss tool, and it can certainly help in that area. With high levels of fiber and “good” forms of fat, the world’s healthiest diet can promote muscle growth, reduce fat deposition, and speed up the metabolism to boost your calorie-burning potential. A recent study suggests that adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet may help prevent weight gain and abdominal obesity. [10] [11] [12]

Heart Health

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy dietary pattern that has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). It is rich in nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, all of which are beneficial for heart health. [13]

A study found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 40% lower risk of CVD incidence and mortality. A systematic review of 16 prospective cohort studies also found that women who followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of CVD incidence, total mortality, and CHD. [14] [15]

Another study found that the Mediterranean diet may be a more effective dietary approach for improving endothelial function and protecting against CVD, even in patients with severe endothelial dysfunction. Additionally, a randomized controlled trial of 7,447 participants found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events by 28-31% compared to a reduced-fat diet. [16] [17]


Many of the typical foods in the Mediterranean diet are rich in fiber, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes. It also has high proportion of fibers, mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols.

With ample amounts of fiber in your diet, your digestive process will be improved, preventing symptoms of constipation, bloating, cramping, and stomach upset

According to a study, the Mediterranean diet can beneficially modulate the gut microbiome, which is associated favorably with inflammatory and oxidative status, propensity for malignancy, and overall metabolic health. It can also help to improve the efficiency of your nutrient uptake, meaning that you will get the most out of the food you eat. [18] [19]


Another major bonus of the Mediterranean diet is its effect on diabetes, both for those at risk for the disease and people who have already been diagnosed. High fiber levels can help regulate the release of insulin and glucose into the body, while also reducing inflammation and lowering risk factors for metabolic syndrome, which is closely associated with diabetes. [20]


Inflammation comes in many forms in countless areas of the body, causing oxidative stress and exhausting the body’s resources. With anti-inflammatory compounds, minerals, and antioxidants abundant in this diet, inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and general aches and pains can be remedied quite easily. [21]

According to a recent study, the Mediterranean diet is a healthy dietary pattern that has anti-inflammatory effects and is associated with a reduced risk of chronic NCDs. [22]

Chronic Disease

Numerous studies have linked the common food in the world’s healthiest diet to a reduction in chronic disease, owing to the antioxidants present in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. These antioxidants seek out and neutralize free radicals before they can cause oxidative stress and cellular mutation. [23]

Cognitive Health

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in various nuts, oils, seeds, fish, and even some fruits, are known to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the neural pathways, which can reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases. The Mediterranean diet can even improve mood, lessen anxiety, and soothe nervous system disorders. [24]

Delayed Aging

Mediterranean diet helps delay the aging process as it is the healthiest diet. It aids in reducing chronic inflammation, which is often a major reason behind premature aging. Aside from that, the diet comprises of foods rich in diverse nutrients that collectively fight age-related disorders and help you embrace a healthy and happy life! [25]

Eye Care

Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants that help protect your vision from diabetic retinopathy (DR) and other eye disorders. DR is triggered by diabetes and is a major cause of blindness and vision loss across the globe. [26]

A study provides strong evidence that a high intake of specific nutrients, the use of antioxidant supplements, and adherence to a Mediterranean diet can decrease the risk of progression of early to late AMD. [27]

Other Benefits

It also helps in improving bone health, treating the symptoms of menopause, and promoting muscle growth, among others. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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