What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that is similar to the cuisine of countries along the Mediterranean Sea. There is no single definition of the diet, but you will eat mostly plant based foods. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown the Mediterranean diet to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death related to heart problems by 30%. The diet can be used as a long term diet pattern to promote health, control blood sugar and prevent chronic disease.
What kinds of foods are included in the Mediterranean diet?
You will eat mostly plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, potatoes, whole-grains, beans, nuts, seeds and extra virgin olive oil. Meals are planned around these foods. The diet also includes moderate amounts of lean poultry, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs. You should avoid fried foods, sweets, red meats and white flour products.
The following information will clarify details about the Mediterranean diet, such as which foods to pick and how much of each food to eat. You will also find how to include these foods into your diet.
What are the key components of the Mediterranean diet?
|Food||Serving Goal||Ways to Incorporate|
|Fresh fruits and vegetables||3 servings fruit per day|
(1 serving = 1/2 cup to 1 cup)
3+ servings vegetables per day
(1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked
or 1 cup raw)
|Have at least 1 serving at each meal or choose as a snack.|
|Legumes (beans and lentils)||3 servings per week|
(1 serving = 1/2 cup)
|Add to salad, soups and pasta dishes; try hummus or bean dip for veggies or a veggie or bean burger.|
|Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)||At least 1 Tbsp per day|
(no more than 4 Tbsp per day)
|Use instead of vegetable oil and animal fats (butter, sour cream, mayonnaise). Drizzle on salads, cooked vegetables, pasta or as a dip for bread.|
|Fish (especially fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids)||3 servings per week|
(1 serving = 3 to 4 ounces)
|Fish rich in omega-3s include salmon, sardines, herring, tuna and mackerel.|
|Nuts: Ideally, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts||At least 3 servings per week|
(1 serving = 1 ounce or 1/4 cup
or 2 Tbsp nut butter)
|Add to hot or cold cereal, salad and yogurt. Choose raw, unsalted and dry roasted varieties alone or with dried fruit as a snack.|
|Whole grains and|
(potatoes, peas and corn)
|3 to 6 servings per day|
(1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked; 1 slice of bread; or 1 ounce of
|Choose oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, or a baked or roasted red skin or sweet potato. Choose whole grain bread, cereal, couscous and pasta.|
|Poultry (white meat)||Choose white meat instead of dark meat.||Choose skinless white meat poultry that is baked, broiled|
|Dairy||Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.||Choose fat-free or 1% milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Choose natural, light, or part-skim cheese. Avoid whole-milk dairy, cream, and cream-based sauces and dressings.|
|Eggs||Limit egg yolks; have up to 1 yolk per day.||No limit on egg whites. If you have high cholesterol, consult an MD or RD for specific recommendations on egg yolks, or limit to no more than 4 yolks per week.|
(beef, pork, veal and lamb)
(no more than 1 serving per week; 1 serving = 3 ounces)
Limit to lean cuts, such as
tenderloin, sirloin and flank steak
1 to 2 glasses per day
Limit to one serving per day for women and two servings per day for men.
|If you do not drink, the American Heart Association cautions people NOT to start drinking. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation.|
|Baked goods and desserts||Avoid commercial baked goods/sweets and desserts. Limit homemade goods to less than 3 times/week. Instead, choose fruit and nonfat yogurt.||Bake using liquid oil instead of solid fats; whole grain flour instead of bleached or enriched flour; and egg whites instead of whole eggs.|
For More Information
Nutrition Program Preventative Cardiology and Rehabilitation
Appointments: 216.444.9353 or 800.223.2273 EXT.49353
Hearing Impaired (TTY) Assistance: 216.444.0261
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy