Mediterranean Diet For Dummies book cover

Mediterranean Diet For Dummies

By: Rachel Berman Published: 09-03-2013

Expert advice on transitioning to this healthy lifestyle

The Mediterranean diet is a widely respected and highly acclaimed diet based on the food and lifestyles common to the people of Greece, Cyprus, Southern France, Spain, and coastal Italy. In addition to being a healthy, extremely effective way of losing weight, the Mediterranean diet is considered an effective means of avoiding or reversing many health problems, such as cardiovascular issues, pre-Diabetes, and obesity.

This hands-on, friendly guide covers the numerous health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and encourages meals that consist largely of healthy foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil and other healthy fats, fish, and foods high in Omega-3 fat content, such as seafood, nuts, beans, and dairy products. Featuring 20 delicious and nutritious recipes and chock-full of tips from consuming the best oils to whether wine is okay with meals (it is), Mediterranean Diet For Dummies serves as the formula for maximizing success in achieving ideal weight and health.

  • Explains how switching to a Mediterranean diet can ward off the risk of many diseases
  • Includes 20 tasty recipes
  • Also available: Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies

If you've heard of this highly acclaimed and publicized diet, Mediterranean Diet For Dummies helps you make the switch.

Articles From Mediterranean Diet For Dummies

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42 results
Mediterranean Diet For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-16-2022

Because of the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet and the recent studies that have highlighted the diet’s ability to reduce heart disease, decrease the risk of some cancers, prevent or mitigate the effects of diabetes, and more, many have embraced the Mediterranean diet’s key guidelines. Although this plant-based diet devotes the largest portion of a plate to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, healthy fats, like those you get from olive oil and nuts, lean animal proteins, and red wine also take key roles.

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10 Mediterranean Diet Studies

Article / Updated 08-12-2021

Interest in the relationship between the Mediterranean region and the longevity of its denizens was sparked in middle of the 20th century when folks began to notice that people in southern Europe seemed to be living longer than people who lived in northern Europe and the United States. Since then, several studies have been conducted trying to find the reason. Here are ten of them. The Seven Countries study Funded by a grant from the National Heart Institute and led by Ancel Keys, this decades-long study was one of the first to examine the link between lifestyle and disease. Specifically, the Seven Countries study followed population of men, ages 40 to 59, from seven countries, looking for association among diet, known risk factors, and the prevalence of heart attacks and stroke. The study’s major findings include the observation that the risk of heart attack and stroke is directly related to the level of total serum cholesterol, a finding that held true for all groups studied, and that having high cholesterol and being overweight or obese was associated with increased cancer deaths. Although it didn’t specifically study the Mediterranean diet, researchers observed that southern Europe had far fewer coronary deaths than northern Europe and the United States did, even when factoring in other known risks like age, smoking, blood pressure, and physical activity. The SUN Project The SUN Project, from the University of Navarro, Spain, was an ongoing study that sought to identify dietary causes of various health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. This project produced some interesting findings: Participants who followed a Mediterranean-style diet were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Participants who ate a diet rich in olive oil had a reduced risk of hypertension (a finding that was statistically significant only among the men) and heart disease. Those whose diets included trans-unsaturated fatty acids were at greater risk of depression, and the greater the consumption of healthy fats, the lower the risk for depression. The PREDIMED trial The PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) trial, conducted in Spain and launched in 2003 with results published in 2013, was designed to determine whether, and to what degree, a Mediterranean diet prevents cardiovascular disease. It specifically compared a low-fat diet to a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or tree nuts, to see which was most effective at preventing heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Evidence showed that a Mediterranean-based diet, whether supplemented with nuts or extra-virgin olive oil, reduced the risk of heart disease by a whopping 30 percent. The EPIC project The goal of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer) project was to explore the relationship between diet, lifestyle, and cancer, as well as other chronic diseases, like heart disease. Bottom line: You can add years to your life by engaging in these key behaviors: being physically active, eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (the Mediterranean diet has you eating between seven and ten servings), moderating how much alcohol you drink, and not smoking. Research from the University of Louisiana’s College of Pharmacology A healthy brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) that connect in an intricate web, called a neuron forest. Signals that form memories, ideas, and feelings travel from neuron to neuron in this forest. In a brain afflicted with Alzheimer’s, problems occur when the two key proteins stop functioning properly and result in plaques and tangles being formed. At this point the cells, deprived of nutrients, die. In the study, researchers showed that oleocanthal, a compound in extra virgin olive oil, helps decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain by enhancing the production of other proteins and enzymes thought to be critical in removing beta-amyloid. The implication was that following a Mediterranean diet that features extra virgin olive oil has the potential to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The NIH-AARP diet and health study Together the National Institutes of Health and AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) conducted a study that investigated the link between diet and health. The NIH-AARP Diet and Health study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007 found that people who closely adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet were 12 to 20 percent less likely to die from cancer and all causes. The ATTICA study The ATTICA study, published in the September 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, measured the total antioxidant capacity of men and women in Greece. It found that the participants who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet had an 11 percent higher antioxidant capacity than those who didn’t adhere to a traditional diet. The findings also showed that the participants who followed the traditional diet the most had 19 percent lower oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol concentrations, which may potentially lower the risk of developing heart disease. Harvard School of Public Health study Beginning in 1976, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health followed 88,000 healthy women and found that the risk of colon cancer was 2.5 times higher in women who ate beef, pork, or lamb daily compared with those who ate those meats once a month or less. They also found that the risk of getting colon cancer was directly correlated to the amount of meat eaten. 2008 study reviews regarding cancer risk In addition to ingredient-specific studies, the diet as a whole has some promising research. A 2008 study review published in the British Medical Journal showed that following a traditional Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 9 percent. That same year, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that showed that, among post-menopausal women, those who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet were 22 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. A study of 26,000 Greek people published in the British Journal of Cancer showed that using more olive oil cut cancer risk by 9 percent. Study from Second University of Naples A 2009 study from the Second University of Naples in Italy, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that diabetics who followed a Mediterranean diet instead of a low-fat diet had better glycemic control and were less likely to need diabetes medication.

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Factoring Wine into the Mediterranean Diet

Article / Updated 05-25-2021

The Mediterranean diet is not a “diet” in the commonly accepted definition of the word; it’s really a lifestyle. And nothing epitomizes that more than the fact that wine has its place in the standard Mediterranean food pyramid. Ever since the idea of a “French paradox” was observed in the early 1990s, wine and its significance to health have been the source of much research and debate. The “French paradox” describes the phenomenon in which, despite a diet relatively high in saturated fat from cheeses, creamy sauces, and croissants, French people have a lower risk for heart disease. One original theory explaining this paradox is that the presence of red wine in the diet helps ward off heart disease. Since this idea was first proposed, a great deal of information has emerged on the health benefits of including a glass of wine every day. So drink up and read on to discover how a daily glass of wine can be good for you. Red or white? Red, silly head! The color of wine depends on the color of grape used. Red wine is made from purple or red grapes, and white is made from green or yellow grapes. Red grapes and wine have been fermenting with the skin on longer than white, giving them more antioxidants (antioxidants are concentrated in the grape’s skin). One, called resveratrol, is especially important. Research shows that all alcohol — red wine, white wine, beer, and spirits — may have health benefits, such as reducing risk for heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes. In moderation, alcohol does the following: Raises your “good” (HDL) cholesterol, protecting your arteries Acts as a blood thinner, reducing formation of clots and risk for cardiac events Red wine has the greatest amounts of antioxidants and has been more heavily researched relative to compounded benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Red wines are classified by body type. In this context, body type doesn’t refer to being pear-shaped or curvy. Instead it refers to the mouthfeel of the wine. Mouthfeel has a lot to do with tannins, a type of flavonoid found in wines (and which can also be found in teas). Typically, the more tannins, the higher the alcohol content and the greater the “dry pucker” taste you get when you take a sip. Tannins act as sort of a palate cleanser, too. Here are the different wine classifications: Light-bodied: Lowest in tannins. Examples include Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Rosé wine falls within the category of a light-bodied red wine, even though the color is a pinkish hue. Rosé is lighter than red wine because the skins of the grape have the shortest contact time with the juice. Rosés can also be made by blending together red and white wines. Medium-bodied: Moderate tannins. Examples include like Chianti, Shiraz, and Merlot. Full-bodied: Highest in tannins. Examples include Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon. Red wine has the potential to trigger migraines. The exact mechanism isn’t clear, but research shows that tannins and sulfites, chemicals added to increase shelf life, may be two of the culprits. If you’re susceptible to migraines, look for red wine without sulfites and avoid those highest in tannins. Cheers! Looking at the benefits of red wine Before you raise your glass, take a little time to find out about the antioxidants in red wine and understand how they impact your health. Savoring both the wine and its benefits is all part of the cultural experience. Resveratrol is the magic ingredient in wine that has the greatest health perks. It’s an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in your body, boosting your immune system and warding off disease. Although it’s unclear how much resveratrol you need (studies on resveratrol use rats and higher doses than that found in your glass of wine), resveratrol has been shown to have benefits in these arenas: Heart disease: Reduces inflammation, “bad” cholesterol, and risk for clots, and protects artery health. Brain health: Protects against cognitive decline and plaque formation in the brain, reduces inflammation, and may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Cancer: Reduces tumor development. Diabetes: May help lower blood glucose levels and improve the body’s response to insulin. Wine isn’t the only drink that provides your dose of resveratrol! It’s also found in varying amounts in grapes, grape juice, blueberries, cranberries, peanuts, and dark chocolate. Quercetin is another flavonoid compound in red wine. It helps widen blood vessels, minimize clots, and reduce inflammation. In addition to being found in wine, quercetin is also found in red apples, capers, dill, and berries. Adding flavor with wine Who says the only way to enjoy wine is to drink it? Wine can add a lot of flavor — without any of the fat — to many recipes. Using wine even lets you cut down on some of the oil you’re using, which is an especially nifty benefit when you’ve already had your allotment for the day. In addition to adding flavor, wine also adds moisture. You can use it to make a mean marinade and to help tenderize meat. You can also use it as a substitute for oil when you’re sautéing or simmering. When you cook with wine, some of the alcohol evaporates away during the cooking process; how much varies, depending on the cooking method and length of cooking time. When thinking about the type of wine to use in cooking, these guidelines may help: Choose lighter bodied wines for more delicately flavored dishes and full-bodied wines for dishes with more flavor. Use white wine for light colored dishes and sauces, red for darker-colored meals. Choose a wine you like to drink because the flavor will remain during the cooking process. Dry wine is low in sugar; sweeter wines have more natural sugars and therefore add more sweetness. When deciding which to use, choose the one that produce the flavor you’re craving.

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How the Mediterranean Diet Helps with Weight Management

Step by Step / Updated 04-05-2017

One of the beautiful side effects of following a Mediterranean diet is weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. Consider it a “side effect” because this type of diet is not your typical restrictive meal plan you may hear about in the media. It’s not a quick fix (that doesn’t exist, by the way), nor will you feel deprived when eating like the people in the Mediterranean do. Instead, you’ll reap all the benefits of nutritious foods and enjoy your meals and your lifestyle, all while reducing your risk for obesity and promoting, as research also shows, a smaller waistline. Here’s why the Mediterranean diet helps with weight loss and healthy-weight maintenance:

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A Taste of the Mediterranean: Top 10 Herbs and Spices

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Herbs, spices, and lots of flavor — those are the things you’ll discover when you partake of Mediterranean cuisine. For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been incorporated into Mediterranean dishes to add flavor. These additions boost flavor without adding a significant amount of calories, sodium, or fat. In fact, herbs and spices are so essential to the cuisine, that they’ve earned a place in the Mediterranean food guide pyramid alongside fruits, vegetables, olive oil, grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. Herbs and spices not only spice up your dish for the benefit of your taste buds, but they also pack a nutritional punch! They contain a range of phytonutrients and antioxidants and, by type, offer up various health benefits. So go ahead, take a simple cue from the Mediterranean cuisine and experiment with a variety of herbs and spices to reap the benefits.

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The Top 5 Mediterranean Vegetables

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Although adding more vegetables in general to your diet is inherently more Mediterranean, certain vegetables stand out as key components of a Mediterranean diet. Here are the top five Mediterranean veggies:

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The 5 Grain Stars of the Mediterranean

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

The Mediterranean diet is grounded in the practice of having a whole grain at every meal. And no, that doesn’t mean eating an entire plate of whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner. Instead, people in the Mediterranean make their grains the side dish or create more of a balance by adding lean protein and vegetables to their pastas. Grains don’t give you only fiber and nutrients; they also add taste, texture, and flavor to every meal. The more variety, the better for both the nutrient value and your taste buds.

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The 5 Types of Sealife Central to the Mediterranean Diet

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Hundreds of fish are indigenous to the Mediterranean Sea. But this list highlights the top five seafood varieties that are typically included in a Mediterranean diet.

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How the Mediterranean Diet Can Minimize Your Heart Disease Risk

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Many key aspects of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle can really help you reduce your risk for developing, as well as the progression of, heart disease:

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Linking the Mediterranean Diet to Cancer Prevention

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Whether you’re undergoing treatment for cancer or want to reduce your risk for recurrence, good nutrition is key. The Mediterranean diet offers nutrient benefits for cancer prevention as well as improving your lifespan. The incidence of cancer in the Mediterranean is lower than in the UK and United States, and the specific cancers involved, like bowel, breast, and prostate, have been attributed to dietary causes. Chemo and radiation therapy can cause changes in your eating habits, for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the treatment itself is responsible. In others, fatigue from the treatments can leave you too tired to eat, or the treatment itself can alter your taste for food. All of these possibilities are bad, because good nutrition is especially important during cancer treatments. Here are some reasons why: Eating well helps you keep your energy up. Good nutrition helps you manage side effects. A healthy diet can help your body fend off infection. Researchers out of Greece and Harvard who published work in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention estimate that up to 25 percent of incidences of colorectal cancer, 15 percent of breast cancer, and 10 percent of endometrial, prostate, and pancreatic cancer could be prevented with adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Let food be your medicine (in addition, of course, to whatever treatment your primary physician recommends)! Here are some things you can do:

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