6 pros — and 3 cons — of following the Mediterranean diet
- April 29, 2021
- People on the Mediterranean diet eat a lot of vegetables, fish, and olive oil.
- The popular diet is said to lower your cholesterol levels and potentially help control diabetes.
- The diet, however, does not have any calorie guidelines making it possible for those on it to overeat.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
The Mediterranean diet seems to be the diet that everyone is talking about lately. And it’s for good reason, as this diet is said to boast impressive health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, and helping with digestion.
“The Mediterranean diet has tons of research done on its health benefits,” said Kerry Clifford, MS, LDN registered dietitian for Fresh Thyme Farmers Market.
Like with all eating plans, however, it’s worth mentioning that there are some cons associated with the Mediterranean diet, as some dietitians say that its lack of structure can lead to overeating calorie-dense foods.
To help you understand all the ins-and-outs of the Mediterranean diet, we spoke to some registered dietitians about all the advantages and disadvantages associated with this eating plan.
Below are 11 key points worth keeping in mind.
The Mediterranean diet may help lower your cholesterol levels
Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla
“A Mediterranean diet consists of plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains,” said clinical dietitian Emily Incledon MS, RD. This diet recommends limiting red meat to no more than once per week.
This healthy eating pattern can be effective at lowering oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol and improving heart health. In fact, according to Mayo Clinic, following a Mediterranean diet was shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality for more than 1.5 million healthy adults.
The diet is easy to stick with
“The Mediterranean diet has no strict rules, so you can observe this eating plan no matter where you go,” said registered dietitian Mariana Dineen MS, CDN.
Because there isn’t tracking involved and the list of compliant foods is pretty long, you’ll most likely find an option whether you go out to eat or stay home.
The Mediterranean diet promotes the consumption of low-saturated fat
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images
“The Mediterranean diet replaces butter (which is high in saturated fat) with olive oil,” Dineen told INSIDER.
Olive oil is high in healthy unsaturated fats, she explained, and studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with such may offer heart-health benefits.
The high-fiber diet may help control diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is high in fiber-rich foods, which are said to help regulate blood sugar by absorbing sugar from the bloodstream.
This, in turn, may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of nutrient-dense foods and top-notch ingredients
Dineen explained that the Mediterranean diet promotes the consumption of whole-plant based foods such as vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These foods, she said, guarantee a high intake of important minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients that have been suggested to provide a beneficial effect on metabolic and inflammatory risk parameters.
Dineen also told INSIDER that the Mediterranean diet focuses on whole foods and eliminates low- quality, highly processed foods which are often laden with additives, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
This diet plan allows you to slow down and enjoy meals
“The Mediterranean diet is not only about the food,” said Dineen. The Mediterranean diet, she explained, also advocates for us to slow down, enjoy mealtimes, and connect with our food and the people we savor it with.
The diet, however, does not have any calorie guidelines
“Since nothing is off limits, it can be difficult to not have a specific plan or calorie guidelines,” Clifford told INSIDER.
Also, since the focus is on healthy fats and whole grains, she explained that overeating is quite possible. In addition, she noted this diet promotes eating the whole food, like full-fat dairy products, which, when eaten in large quantities, may be very calorically dense.
Plant-based dieters may have a tougher time eating this eating plan
“Someone who follows another diet (plant-based, dairy-free, or low-fat) may have a hard time getting all of the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet,” Clifford said.
For example, someone on a low-fat diet won’t get the benefits of olive oil, a monounsaturated fat. If you want to try both, it’s worth speaking with a nutritionist and/or healthcare professional about making sure you get all of the benefits you need.
Every diet has its cons
“The Mediterranean diet is deemed one of the healthiest diets to follow,” Incledon told INSIDER.
“In my opinion, there are very few cons of this diet, except perhaps for the word ‘diet’ itself, which, like all other diets, implies it’s a short-term phase,” she said.
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