How to Follow the Diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on:
- Plant-based meals, with just small amounts of lean meat and chicken
- More servings of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes
- Foods that naturally contain high amounts of fiber
- Plenty of fish and other seafood
- Olive oil as the main source of fat for preparing food. Olive oil is a healthy, monounsaturated fat
- Food that is prepared and seasoned simply, without sauces and gravies
Foods Not in the Diet
Foods that are eaten in small amounts or NOT at all in the Mediterranean diet include:
- Red meats
- Sweets and other desserts
Possible Health Concerns
There may be health concerns with this eating style for some people, including:
- You may gain weight from eating fats in olive oil and nuts.
- You may have lower levels of iron. If you choose to follow the Mediterranean diet, be sure to eat some foods rich in iron or in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron.
- You may have calcium loss from eating fewer dairy products. Ask your health care provider if you should take a calcium supplement.
- Wine is a common part of a Mediterranean eating style but some people should not drink alcohol. Avoid wine if you are prone to alcohol abuse, pregnant, at risk for breast cancer, or have other conditions that alcohol could make worse.
Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on practice guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63(25 Pt B):2960-2984. PMID: 24239922
Prescott E. Lifestyle interventions. In: de Lemos JA, Omland T, eds. Chronic Coronary Artery Disease: A Companion to Braunwald's Heart Disease. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 18.
Thompson M, Noel MB. Nutrition and family medicine. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 37.
Victor RG, Libby P. Systemic hypertension: management. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 47.
Last reviewed on: 7/12/2018
Reviewed by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.