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What does a Mediterranean diet consist of?

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Quick Answer

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods, fish, poultry, healthy fats and whole grains. It limits red meats and sweets and encourages both physical activity and unhurried eating in a pleasant environment with family and friends.

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The Mediterranean diet is based on the predominant dietary and lifestyle habits of those countries, particularly Greece, that border the Mediterranean Sea. It is especially good for cardiovascular health and can help lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. According to Mayo Clinic, studies also suggest that it can help reduce the risk of certain cancers, as well as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes form the backbone of the diet. Fish and seafood are the primary sources of animal protein, with poultry, eggs, milk and cheese enjoyed several times a week. Herbs and spices, rather than salt, punch up mealtime flavor. Healthy fats, such as olive oil, tend to replace saturated fats such as butter. Enjoying red wine in moderation is optional, but encouraged. Red meats and sweets make brief appearances, but usually no more than a couple of times a month.

The food emphasized in the Mediterranean diet is minimally processed, cooked at home and enjoyed with family and friends.

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