The Mediterranean Diet: Myths and Truths Exposed

Putting the word “diet” into Google produced just under 2 billion results in less than 2 seconds. It would seem that diet is something that a lot of people are focused on. There are dozens and dozens of types of diets being promoted at any given time, but one of the most interesting is the Mediterranean Diet.

Actually, there is no one Mediterranean Diet. Italians, French, Greeks and the Spanish all have marked differences in their choice of cuisine, but these neighbor countries do share certain features. It is those common characteristics that define the Mediterranean way of eating, or, the Mediterranean Diet.

Pizza? Pasta? Wine? Sign me up!

When you think about the Mediterranean Diet, do you immediately envision large plates of pasta, swimming in butter, olive oil or wine-based sauces and served with lamb chops? Slices of pizza, laden with cheese? Red wine with every meal?

The origins of those foods may be associated with countries along the Mediterranean Sea, but that is not the way that residents of those areas have traditionally filled their plates. The true Mediterranean Diet is more mindset than rigid structure. The emphasis is on eating mainly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other legumes, olive oil, herbs, spices and seafood, with less frequent additions of poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt and red wine. Red meat and desserts should be consumed only on rare occasions.

How do I lose weight eating olive oil and drinking wine?

The Mediterranean Diet was never designed as a weight loss program. The benefits have always been recognized in important areas like low rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. This may be one of the reasons that millennials are becoming so attracted to the Mediterranean way of eating, since studies are finding that they show an unexpectedly high rate of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as they hit age 27, which is younger than for previous generations.

As for whether you can lose weight on the Mediterranean Diet, the answer is “yes, but…”. Since this diet is focused on the types of food you eat rather than the amounts, weight loss will depend on eating more of the lower calorie foods, like the fruits and vegetables and not overdoing it on the whole grains, beans and fats. Basically, with a little common sense, the Mediterranean Diet can help you become healthier and lose weight. It is all up to the choices you make.

Common myths about the Mediterranean Diet

Besides the belief that you can go to Olive Garden and indulge in those never-ending bowls of pasta and orders of bread sticks, there a few other fairly widely-held misconceptions. No, you cannot drink all of the red wine you want. A glass with dinner is fine, although if your goal is to lose weight, that will go quicker if you make it only an occasional glass.

There has been some criticism that this way of eating is more expensive. Almost any diet that focuses on fresh produce and healthy seafood and meats, is more expensive than typical pre-packaged foods.

That said, this type of change in overall eating habits results in making the individual more satisfied and less likely to constantly be looking for fillers in the form of packaged, processed “foods” that offer little to no nutritional value. Once all of those have been deducted from your weekly food bill, you may be surprised to see that there really is not that much more cost to eating in a way that adds to your health rather than the opposite.

Is the Mediterranean Diet for you?

It’s hard to imagine anyone that the heart-healthy benefits of a Mediterranean style of eating would not benefit. Whether it is the one for you, however, is a decision that can only be made by you in consultation with your own healthcare professional. Everyone is different, and that is why it is so important that diet is chosen based on the individual rather than the current favorite of someone on TV or one popping up in front of you every other minute on social media.

It’s your health. Choose wisely.

About The Author

 Dr. Judi Goldstone, a recognized expert in weight loss and anti-aging, is a board-certified physician and member of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. Her life’s work has focused on helping her patients achieve the highest levels of physical and mental fitness, enabling them to live fulfilling, productive, joyful and healthy lives.  Dr. Goldstone graduated cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles and went on to receive her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.