Mediterranean Diet
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | March 18, 2003

If you read the Newsletters consistently, you know that Better Life Unlimited recommends that the best diet, the way you should eat for good health, is the Mediterranean diet. Many of you have asked, "What exactly is the Mediterranean diet and why does Better Life Unlimited recommend it?" This Newsletter will give you some answers to those questions.

In actuality, there is no single Mediterranean diet because there are so many countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. While all have different cultural and agricultural influences, there are similarities in categories of foods. While one country may favor pasta and another rice, whole grains are common to all. Here are the basics of the Mediterranean diet:

  • The foundation is several servings of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole-grain cereals and breads every day. Cheese, yogurt, and monounsaturated oil such as olive oil are generally eaten sparingly every day.
  • On a weekly basis, their meals include a few servings of eggs, poultry, fish, and sweets.
  • Red meat is eaten only a few times per month--most areas around the Mediterranean are more suitable for raising goats and sheep than cattle.
  • Red wine is consumed moderately.
Foods people of the Mediterranean don't eat on a regular basis are staples of the typical American diet: highly refined carbohydrates, deep-fried foods, and soda.

Why do we recommend this dietary approach? Because when researchers look at all the ways of eating, the Mediterranean diet stands out for providing some protection against the two biggest killers in America today: heart disease and cancer (1-3). It may be beneficial for other reasons as well. Eating fewer refined-carbohydrate foods may reduce the glycemic response and decrease insulin resistance, thus reducing the risk of developing diabetes. Better oils such as olive oil may reduce the intake of saturated fats and thereby reduce cholesterol levels. The research continues.

One final thing: while food is important, people in the Mediterranean countries are much more physically active than the typical American--they get regular physical activity every day. This is an important part of their lives and should be of ours as well. So when you hear about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, remember that exercise is also a critical component of that lifestyle.


  1. Martinez-Gonzalez MA, et al. Mediterranean diet and reduction in the risk of a first acute myocardial infarction: an operational healthy dietary score. Eur J Nutr 2002; 41(4):153-60.
  2. de Lorgeril M, et al. Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: final report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study. Circulation 1999; 99(6):779-85.
  3. de Lorgeril M, et al. Mediterranean dietary pattern in a randomized trial: prolonged survival and possible reduced cancer rate. Arch Intern Med 1998;158(11):1181-7.
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