As someone who loves food too much to deprive themselves of anything, I'm not the biggest supporter of diets. The one exception, however, is the Mediterranean "diet" because it's more a regional nutritional philosophy. Rather than eliminating certain food groups, it emphasizes fresh and healthy items such as fruits and veggies, whole grains, and of course, olive oil (a Mediterranean staple). In fact, it was even voted the best overall diet by US News & World Report (tying with the DASH diet) and determined the best diet for weight loss, according to Harvard Medical studies. Since I already love Greek and Italian fare, I decided to give the Mediterranean diet a shot for a week. The TL;DR version: I absolutely loved it.
Maintaining this way of eating was pretty easy, and I didn't feel like I had to make any drastic changes to my existing diet. The only swaps I really had to make were butter for olive oil and adding more fruits and vegetables, which needed to be done anyway. Here's a snapshot of what my meals looked like:
- Kale salad with olive oil and lemon juice, chickpeas, tomatoes, feta, and olives
- Falafels, roasted cauliflower, quinoa, and Israeli salad
- Salmon with olive oil, brown rice, and broccoli or Brussels sprouts
- Greek salad
- Nut assortment
- Fruit (pears and apples)
- Roasted chickpeas
It could've been the placebo effect, but I definitely noticed a difference in how I felt. I didn't feel as heavy as I typically do after a filling meal, and I woke up in the mornings less bloated and with a flatter tummy. Although the changes were subtle for the most part, one thing that was apparent by the weekend was my body's reaction to refined carbs. The Mediterranean diet limits white and starchy carbohydrates, like bread and pasta - so the one day I did cheat, I immediately felt my body reject my usual weekend breakfast featuring hashbrowns and toast. I felt nauseous and overall just gross. I hadn't expected to adjust to the Mediterranean diet so quickly.
Admittedly, I haven't been following the diet as strictly but I have since adopted some of its general rules. I try to opt for whole grain instead of white, olive oil over butter, and fruits in lieu of junk food. I highly recommend the Mediterranean diet to anyone looking to eat better without having to make a complete diet transformation. Especially with benefits like better heart health, weight loss, improved eye and brain function, and even greater longevity, this lifestyle definitely poses less risk (if at all) than other controversial diets like keto. Overall, the fact that I was still able to eat foods I love without feeling too restricted makes this one a definite winner.