Starting a new diet can be confusing. What can you eat? What recipes can you cook? What do you have to add to your shopping list? To make things easier for you in this post I’ve put together a Mediterranean diet food list.
This will give you a guide to what foods are suitable for the Mediterranean diet and which foods are not.
We’ll also look at some of the amazing health benefits of the different foods.
As you will see, they can make you look younger, melt the fat, ward off illness and help you live longer.
There’s also a free Mediterranean diet food list that you can download and use to make your shopping lists.
Grab your free Mediterranean diet food list here
Just let me know where to send it.
Fruit & vegetables: nature’s medicine cabinet
Eating more fruit and vegetables will transform your health.
We’ve all read news reports of the latest fruit or vegetable “superfood”. The truth is all fruit and vegetables are superfoods.
They contain a vast array of vitamins, minerals, fibres, antioxidants, polyphenols and other nutrients. It is little wonder that study after study has confirmed their health benefits.
Let’s have a look at a few of them.
Easy weight loss
Simply eating more fruit and vegetables can massively boost weight loss.
They were also told not to count calories or change their exercise levels and that they could eat as much fruit and vegetables as they wanted.
The results were amazing.
After 6 months they lost on average 26lbs and reduced their BMIs by 4.4.
And they kept virtually all the weight off when the researchers measured them again after 12 months.
Look healthier and more attractive
In the study researchers just asked participants to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables they ate. Photos were taken at the beginning and end of the 6 week study.
Participants were told not to wear makeup, use fake tan and to avoid the sun.
After 6 weeks another group were asked to rate the before and after photos on attractiveness and healthiness.
The researchers found that by increasing their fruit and vegetables intake by an average of 2.9 portions a day, participants were rated as looking healthier.
By increasing intake by 3.3 portions a day, participants were rated as being more attractive!
Avoid cancer and heart disease
These are the two biggest killers in most countries but fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce your risk of succumbing to them.
In a large study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, people who ate 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 25% less likely to die from cancer and 31% less likely to die from heart disease.
7 portions may sound a lot but it is actually very easy to do with a bit of smart planning.
It’s not just the main killers that fruit and vegetables tackle. In the same study people who ate 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 42% less likely to die from any cause!
Mediterranean diet food list: fruit & vegetables
Apples (all types)
Grapes (red and white)
Kiwi fruit/Chinese gooseberry
Lychee (fresh, not canned)
Melon (all types)
Lettuce (all types)
Mushrooms (all types)
Onions (all types)
Peas (fresh or frozen)
Peppers (all types)
Potatoes (all types ideally with skin on)
Spinach (fresh or frozen)
Sugar snap peas/mangetout
Squash (all types)
Sweetcorn (on or off the cob, fresh or frozen)
Extra virgin olive oil: great tasting oil that is good for you
Not all olive oil is created equal. Some types can actually be bad for us.
By far the best type to go for is “extra virgin” olive oil which means that it has been extracted by mechanical crushing and not through the use of chemicals.
It is best used raw in salads and dressings or drizzled over food after cooking. It can be used to cook with but only at low temperatures. Cooking at higher temperatures can damage its structure and change it from being healthy to unhealthy.
It also has numerous other benefits.
Swapping extra virgin olive oil for other oils can lift your mood.
For example, a Spanish study found that people who consumed a lot of olive oil were 48% less likely to be depressed than people who used vegetable oil in their cooking.
Adding 9 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to your diet each week is more effective than Viagra at boosting sexual performance!
Unlike Viagra, which only works for a few hours, olive oil’s effects are continuous and it cuts erectile disfunction risk by 40%.
It seems that olive oil’s ability to boost testosterone levels and improve circulation is responsible for its “potent” effects!
Save your brain
Mediterranean diet food list: extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
An alternative when cooking at higher temperatures in virgin coconut oil
Avoid canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, “vegetable” oil, peanut oil, groundnut oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil, margarine and butter substitutes.
Nuts and seeds pack a healthy punch
If you need an energy boost don’t reach for the coffee. Grab a small handful of nuts and you will supercharge your mind and your body.
Nuts maybe small but they are packed full of healthy fats and nutrients.
Melt belly fat
In a short 6 week study researchers asked participants to eat a small handful of almonds each day. Even though the study was short the group eating the almonds lost 6% of their belly fat.
6% may not sound much but if these results were to continue over a year it would equate to losing over half your belly fat!
Not only do almonds melt belly fat they also slash cholesterol levels. In the same study levels of bad cholesterol decreased by 10%. Again, not bad over only 6 weeks.
Eating nuts enhances brainwave function which, in plain English, is linked to better brain functioning, learning and memory.
In this study pistachios were best for improving cognitive processing and learning and helped people retain information for longer.
Peanuts, on the other hand, improved sleep quality.
Mediterranean diet food list: nuts & seeds
Wild fish and shellfish
Fish is a great source of protein and is an important part of a Mediterranean diet food list.
And guess what?! Eating fish regularly is liked to a 36% decrease in the risk of dying from heart disease and a 50% reduction in the risk of getting certain types of cancer.
Improve your sex life
It’s true! Couples who eat more fish are more likely to conceive and have more sex.
Researchers at Harvard looked at the diets of 501 couples and found those who ate fish at least twice a week were 61% more likely to conceive and have 22% (exactly!) more sex than those that don’t.
Slows brain ageing
We probably expect our brains to slow down as we get older.
That does not necessarily have to be the case though. Eating fish is one thing we can do to tackle the problem. One study showed that eating fish twice a week slowed brain ageing by 13%.
Cuts asthma rates in children
Asthma rates in children have been rising for the last few decades. No one knows why for sure, but many believe it is to do with our environment. Enter fish.
Mediterranean diet food list: wild fish & shellfish
All wild fish and shellfish can be included in a Mediterranean diet food list. The exact varieties available will vary depending on where you live.
The only word of caution is that you should ensure that it is not contaminated by mercury or other pollutants.
Consult your country’s health authority for anything that should be avoided.
Lean, wild & naturally reared meat really is good for you
Meat gets a bad press. Rightly so in many cases.
Let’s start by getting one thing straight.
Wild and organic meat reared eating the food nature intended and eaten in moderation is not the issue here.
The issue is meat from animals that have been raised in artificial conditions, fed foods they do not naturally eat, given drugs to keep them free of disease and, in some countries, given hormones to speed up growth.
Take beef as an example. Nature intended for cattle to roam pastures and graze on grass.
They are not intended to be intensively reared, kept in confined cowsheds, be fed a grain-based diet and receive antibiotics, growth hormones and other drugs. Cattle reared in this way produces very different meat to cattle raised naturally.
The difference is not a good one.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of beef is now produced in this way. In the US it is known as “feedlot”.
“You are what you eat” is so true. By eating meat raised in an unnatural way we ourselves are eating food that we are not by evolution designed to eat.
This can lead to health problems.
You have no doubt seen news headlines that report on studies that proclaim red meat causes various illnesses.
One of the things that these studies do not do is differentiate between naturally reared meat and intensively reared meat.
The results of these studies are still valid because the vast majority of red meat consumed is intensively reared.
Naturally reared meat is a very different beast (pun intended!) and deserves its place on a Mediterranean diet food list.
Using beef again as the example, naturally raised, grass-fed beef has been shown to have:
Mediterranean diet food list: lean, wild & naturally eared meat
Try to ensure meat is either wild, organic or naturally reared.
Eggs (not a meat, clearly, but this is the most appropriate place to include it)
Game (venison, pheasant, partridge, grouse, wood pigeon)
Beans/legumes fill you up and slim you down
“Beans are boring!”
It’s not true! Sure, eaten on their own they aren’t going to win any Michelin stars but they can easily be transformed into delicious meals.
Each tiny bean is crammed full of soluble fibre, B vitamins, calcium, amino acids and powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins.
Beans give you an energy boost without the crash and will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
They are so good for us that even the much-maligned US Department of Agriculture recommended people triple their intake a few years ago.
They have also been proven to have a range of health benefits.
Contains potent anti-ageing nutrients
Have you heard of “resveratrol”? No? It’s a substance that has been proven to significantly extend the lives of animals.
Beans contain high amounts of resveratrol.
Sure, these are animals not humans but scientists also believe resveratrol explains something called the “French Paradox”. The French typically eat a diet that’s high in fat-laden pastries and creamy sauces, yet have better heart health than many other countries.
Scientists believe the reason is resveratrol.
Accelerates weight loss
Mediterranean diet food list: beans & legumes
Lentils (all types)
Whole grains and the paleo myth
Grains seem to have taken a kicking in recent years. What often gets lost in all the noise is that not all grains are equal.
Grains that have been heavily refined to produce things like white flour are not great for us. The refining process removes the parts of the grain that are good and so should be avoided.
Unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance whole grains are a health food and deserve to be on the Mediterranean diet food list!
Another belly fat melter
Scientists believe that that the extra fibre in whole grain products helps our bodies to burn more of what we eat as energy and to store less as fat.
Cuts your diabetes risk
Diabetes is nasty enough in itself but the bigger problem is that it significantly increases our risk of getting other more serious illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
Eating whole grains can cut our risk of getting diabetes.
One study, followed 160,000 women for over 18 years and found that those who ate 2-3 servings of whole grains each day lowered their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 30%.
Makes you live longer
Perhaps the ultimate measure of how good something is for us is whether it can help us live longer.
Whole grains do just that.
In a large study of over 786,000 people, those who ate 70 grams (2-3 servings) of whole grains each day had a 22% lower risk of dying during the study.
Mediterranean diet food list: whole grains
Pasta (made from wholegrain flour)
Rice (basmati or brown)
Whole grain breads
Is it any wonder that the Mediterranean diet is so good for you?!
By breaking the diet down into its constituent parts we can start to understand why people who choose to follow it never go back.
The diet is made up of some of the healthiest foods on the planet.
What is even better is that the diet as a whole has synergistic effects. Each of the constituent parts working together give even greater health benefits.
The leading researcher on the Mediterranean diet, Dr Walter Willett, a professor at Harvard, puts it this way:
“No one part is most important, they’re all important. It’s the combination of all the parts that matters.”
To help guide you on the foods that qualify I have put together a free Mediterranean diet food list that you can download below.
Grab your free Mediterranean diet food list here
Just let me know where to send it.