The Mediterranean diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber and nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The diet generally includes: fruits, vegetables and unsaturated "good" fats, particularly olive oil. Olive oil has been associated with benefits such as lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart disease. In addition, olive oil may benefit people with type 2 diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the healthy eating and lifestyle habits of the people living in southern Italy, the Greek island of Crete and other areas of Greece in the early 1960s.
The diet has become a popular area of study due to observations made in the 1960s of low incidences of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high cholesterol. Additionally, high life-expectancy rates exist among populations who consumed a traditional Mediterranean diet. Therefore, the Mediterranean diet gained much recognition and worldwide interest in the 1990s as a model for healthful eating.
Proponents claim that the Mediterranean diet can be use to decrease the risk of heart-related problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, and Alzheimer's disease.
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The common Mediterranean diet has the following characteristics: high consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds; olive oil as an important monounsaturated fat source; low to moderate amounts of dairy products, fish and poultry, with red meat eaten rarely; eggs consumed up to four times a week; and low to moderate consumption of wine. The pyramid below represents the amount of foods typically consumed in this diet.