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Weight loss is challenging— we’ve all been there. You may have started a diet but had difficulty keeping up with it. Some diets don’t have the tasty foods you like to eat. One diet that has worked well for people worldwide is the Mediterranean diet.
Who Started the Mediterranean Diet?
This idea began in the 1950s when researchers noticed heart disease was less prevalent in Mediterranean countries than in the United States. Ancel Keys from the University of Minnesota and his team published their findings in a report known as the Seven Countries Study.
Residents of countries like Greece, Italy and Spain experienced a much lower rate of coronary deaths than their counterparts in northern Europe and the United States. Since the study was published, people have tried to mimic the diet and lifestyle of these southern Europeans to better their health.
How Is It a Healthy Diet?
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Southern Europeans consumed these foods daily, leading to a lower risk of coronary issues in the Seven Countries Study. You can still eat the foods you like in moderation, even if they’re not a part of the diet. Reducing your intake of foods like red meat and refined grains can help lower your risk of stroke and heart disease.
What Is a Healthy Fat?
A common theme in the Mediterranean diet is consuming healthy fats. We typically see three primary types of fats in foods: unsaturated, saturated and trans. Be mindful of the different types when you’re picking foods to eat. The Mediterranean diet encourages you to eat unsaturated fats. You can find them in foods like avocados, nuts and nut butter.
Unsaturated fats are better for you than their saturated and trans fat counterparts. Eating food with unsaturated fat gives you energy and helps your body absorb vitamins. While you can consume saturated fats in moderation, try your best to avoid trans fats. You can find saturated fats in fatty meats like beef and dairy products like cheese. You typically see trans fats in fried foods.
What Proteins Can You Eat?
One of the main reasons people try the Mediterranean diet is for weight loss. An excellent way to get started on that journey is to follow the proteins recommended in the diet, including:
- Fish: Fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are popular in the Mediterranean diet. These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help your body build brain-cell membranes.
- Seafood: Other seafood you can enjoy in this diet include shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters and many more. These foods contain protein and nutritious fats and are low in calories.
- Chicken: Chicken is an excellent option, especially chicken breasts. It does have some saturated fat, but the low number of calories and high amount of protein makes it a nutritious food to eat.
- Beans: For vegetarian-based dishes, beans are a great food to build around. Whether you like black beans, chickpeas, red beans, lentils or other beans, they’re all excellent sources of protein and fiber while keeping the calorie number down.
What Are Some Good Snacks?
Snacks are a great way to fuel your body in between regular meals. With the Mediterranean diet, you can find a variety of nutritious foods to eat if you want a pick-me-up in the afternoon. Some of these foods are:
- Nuts: Nuts are a great option for a snack containing protein. They often contain nutritious fats, too. You can choose your favorite kind, whether you like cashews, walnuts, almonds or any other nut.
- Hummus: Hummus is a dip from the Middle East typically made with chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and tahini. This tasty dip has protein, is low in calories and goes great with vegetables like carrots and celery.
- Greek Yogurt: The inventors of Greek yogurt likely came outside of Greece, but this yogurt is high in protein and low in calories if you get the non-fat version. People on the Mediterranean diet often combine it with berries and other fruits to make a nutritious snack. Another popular use of Greek yogurt is tzatziki sauce, which has cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon juice and herbs like dill and parsley.
What About Fruits and Vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are a primary part of the Mediterranean diet. There are many different kinds of fruits and vegetables, so even the self-proclaimed picky eaters will find something they like. Among the best benefits of these foods is fiber, which you can find in berries, apples, broccoli, peas and cauliflower, for example. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories so you can load them up on your plate without regret. Mediterranean diet recipes often roast vegetables with olive oil and seasonings to make a delicious side.
How Does It Help for Weight Loss?
Your diet is a major part of your weight-loss journey. Combine it with your favorite exercise modes, and you’re on your way to losing weight. The Mediterranean diet is popular for weight loss because it encourages eating high-protein, low-calorie foods like fish, chicken and Greek yogurt. Protein and fibrous fruits and vegetables reduce hunger and keep you satiated between meals. The nutritious fats from nuts, olive oil and avocados keep you energized throughout the day.
It’s More Than a Diet
When trying to lose weight, going on a diet can be tricky. Some people lose weight but regain it once they stop the diet and return to their original diet. Ultimately, the best diet for you is the one you can see yourself maintaining with ease for the rest of your life. For the southern Europeans, it’s been a lifestyle more than a diet.
That’s why the Mediterranean diet is popular for weight loss. It takes the foods you may already eat like fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables and encourages you to eat more of those items. The diet doesn’t necessarily restrict foods like red meat and sweets. You can still eat those in moderation. Completely restricting yourself from certain foods can lead to binging, so be careful.