The Real Reason The Mediterranean Diet Is So Popular

If you've ever looked into nutritious meal plans that promote healthy living, then you've probably come across the Mediterranean diet. Named after the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea which adopt this lifestyle, the diet has been praised for a number of health benefits. According to Today, this diet is associated with longevity and decreased levels of heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the World Health Organization also support this dietary lifestyle as a healthy choice (via the Mayo Clinic).

Besides the health benefits, UNESCO considers the Mediterranean diet to be a part of the heritage and culture of that region. First and foremost, this diet is based on long lived traditions, land, harvest, seasonal foods, simple preparations, and enjoying food with others. There's also a version of the food pyramid specific to the Mediterranean diet, and physical activity and social meal times are at the foundation, emphasizing the value of community (via Old Ways).

The Mediterranean diet mainly encourages eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, seafood, and healthy fats (via Harvard University). At the same time, it veers away from sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and processed foods. A glass of red wine a day and regular herbal infusions are both considered appropriate in the Mediterranean diet. Although choices are oriented towards plant-based foods, there's still a place for meat and dairy in moderation.

Is it easy to achieve?

By focusing on local produce and preparing foods together with others, simplicity reigns when it comes to the Mediterranean diet. For example, when you're eating tomatoes in season, a bit of salt, olive oil, and fresh basil is all you need to make a delicious dish. Likewise, if meals are prepared at home, it's unlikely that they'll be filled with processed ingredients and additives. The Mediterranean diet also recommends using herbs and spices to flavor dishes, reducing unnecessary salt or fat (via the Mayo Clinic).

Since the Mediterranean diet doesn't drastically restrict certain foods, it's more achievable than trendier diets. Additionally, there's plenty of room to personalize the menu, thanks to the wide range of foods considered suitable. This also reflects its various influences, since the Mediterranean diet is at the heart of cuisines from vastly different countries such as Morocco, Greece, Italy, and Spain. However, nutrition scientists at Harvard suggest that unless portions are controlled, overeating could be a potential risk since there are no serving size recommendations. 

In a time when fad diets are the norm and food manufacturers are increasingly catering to dietary extremes (how many Keto bars can they make?), the Mediterranean diet sounds overwhelmingly normal. While it doesn't make grand promises about shedding weight, its appeal as a natural lifestyle choice that can be sustained makes it worth a try. If you can't live in a beautiful country overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, why not live like you do?