Mediterranean Diet Food List: the Ultimate Guide

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.

Mediterranean salad

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. 

For example, in one study participants were simply told to “eat more fruit and vegetables”

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.

Not bad!

Look healthier and more attractive

Really? That’s what a study carried out by scientists at Scotland’s famous University of St Andrews shows

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!

Fruit, vegetables and health

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.

Live longer

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

Fruit
Apples (all types)
Apricots
Bananas
Blackberries
Blackcurrants
Blueberries
Cherries
Clementines
Figs
Grapes (red and white)
Kiwi fruit/Chinese gooseberry
Lemons
Limes
Lychee (fresh, not canned)
Mangoes
Melon (all types)
Oranges
Peaches
Pears
Plums
Pomegranates
Raspberries
Redcurrants
Satsumas
Strawberries
Tangerines

Vegetables
Alfalfa sprouts
Artichokes
Arugula/rocket
Asparagus
Avocado
Beets/beetroot
Bok choy
Broccoli
Broccoli rabe
Brussels sprouts
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Celery root/celeriac
Collard greens
Cucumber
Eggplant/aubergine
Endive/chicory
Fennel
Garlic
Green beans
Jerusalem artichoke
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce (all types)
Mushrooms (all types)
Mustard greens
Onions (all types)
Parsnips

 

Peas (fresh or frozen)
Peppers (all types)
Potatoes (all types ideally with skin on)
Runner beans
Spinach (fresh or frozen)
Sugar snap peas/mangetout
Squash (all types)
Swiss chard
Sweet potatoes
Sweetcorn (on or off the cob, fresh or frozen)
Tomatoes
Turnips
Yams
Zucchini/courgette
Watercress

Herbs
Basil
Chives
Cilantro/coriander
Mint
Oregano
Parsley
Rosemary
Sage
Tarragon
Thyme

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. 

Mediterranean diet olive oil

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.

Like fruit and vegetables, extra virgin olive oil has been linked with lowering our risk of heart disease and cancer.

It also has numerous other benefits.

Feel better

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.

Nature’s Viagra

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

Extra virgin olive oil is associated with a 41% lower risk of having a stroke, another of the leading killers in the modern world.

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.

It’s getting boring I know but eating nuts is also linked with reducing our risk of heart disease and cancer.

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!

Lower cholesterol

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.

Boost brainpower

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

Almonds
Cashews
Coconut
Chia seeds
Butternuts

Hazelnuts
Peanuts
Pecans
Pine nuts
Pumpkin seeds

Macadamias
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Walnuts

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.

Eating fish during pregnancy and infancy cuts the risk of children developing asthma by up to 68%

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.

Anchovies
Bluefish
Clams
Cockles
Cod
Crab
Flounder
Hake
Haddock
Halibut
Lobster
Mackerel
Monkfish

Mussels
Oysters
Perch
Pollack
Prawns
Salmon
Sardines
Scallops
Sea bass
Shrimp
Trout
Tuna

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.

Beef/veal
Chicken

Duck
Eggs (not a meat, clearly, but this is the most appropriate place to include it)
Game (venison, pheasant, partridge, grouse, wood pigeon)
Lamb/mutton

Pork
Turkey

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.

Reduces overeating

One of the main reasons people become overweight is because they eat too much. We looked at the issue of portion sizes in our post Mediterranean Diet: Weight Loss Without Trying.

Adding beans/legumes to our diet has been shown to control blood sugar levels and reduce overeating

Accelerates weight loss

Adding beans to your diet can speed up weight loss. One study showed that adding beans led to 51% more weight loss (8.3 lbs compared to 5.5lbs over 8 weeks) even though calorie intake was the same!

Mediterranean diet food list: beans & legumes

Azuki/adzuki
Bean sprouts
Black
Black-eyed peas
Borlotti
Broad

Cannellini
Garbanzo/chickpeas
Kidney
Lentils (all types)
Butter/lima

Mung
Navy
Pinto
Split peas
Soy/edamame

Whole grains and the paleo myth

Grains? Really?!

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

Eating 3 servings a week of whole grains has been linked to less belly fat and lower BMIs.

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

Barley
Bulgur
Couscous
Farro
Oats/oatmeal

Pasta (made from wholegrain flour)
Polenta
Quinoa
Rice (basmati or brown)

Spelt
Wheat
Whole grain breads
Wild rice

Wrap-up

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.

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