The Mediterranean diet is generally accepted as one of the healthiest in the world. It's full of heart-healthy fruits, vegetables and proteins, cooked into a vast range of delicious dishes. Following the Mediterranean diet is thought to lower cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure. It may even extend your life.
There are 21 countries in the Mediterranean, each with unique cuisines and cooking styles. There's no standard Mediterranean diet – you can eat meals from any of these countries as long as you stick to these rules.
More Fish, Less Meat
Our Mediterranean cousins eat more white fish than the average Brit. Eating more than two servings of fish a week may reduce your risk of developing heart disease, although how this happens isn't fully understood yet. It might be down to omega-3 fatty acids which are found in oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel.
There are benefits to swapping meat for fish in your diet. Meats are often high in saturated fats, which can raise the amount of cholesterol in your blood. Excessive meat consumption is known to be bad for your heart, increasing your risk of developing heart disease by around 3%. Adding more fish to your diet should lower these risks and help you to reach your daily recommended amount of protein.
Get at least 5 A Day
At mealtimes, around half of the food on your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Choose fresh or frozen ingredients if possible and avoid processed or canned foods, as some of the nutrients in these products can be destroyed before they reach your kitchen.
Some research suggests that eating five portions of fruit and veg daily might not be enough. A study from UCL (University College London) found that regularly eating seven portions or more, rather than the recommended five, lowered the risk of heart disease and stroke by 31%. The risk of dying from all causes was also reduced by a staggering 42%.
In the Mediterranean diet, all fruits and vegetables are allowed – nothing is off-limits. Try to eat a wide range of healthy foods, especially those that are rich in nutrients and fibre.