The term “Mediterranean diet” can be used to describe the eating pattern of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The health benefits of a Mediterranean eating pattern date back to the 1950s with the “Seven Countries Study,” which established the Mediterranean diet as a heart-healthy eating pattern based on the traditional foods and cooking styles of this part of the world. Observations from a study in the 1960s found that cardiovascular disease was linked to fewer deaths in some Mediterranean countries, such as Greece and Italy, than in the U.S. and northern Europe.

The common diet of this region includes foods high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, including legumes and olive oil with low to modest meat intake.  In the general population, benefits observed in people who ate a Mediterranean dietary pattern compared to usual intake had decreased blood pressure, lower weight, and reduced LDL cholesterol. Individuals with diabetes also benefit from improvement in blood sugar and lipid control.


The main steps to follow the diet include:

  • Each day, eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant-based fats.

  • Each week, have fish, poultry, beans, legumes and eggs.

  • Enjoy moderate portions of dairy products.

  • Limit how much red meat you eat.

  • Limit how many foods with added sugar you eat.

Some other elements of the Mediterranean diet are to: 

  • Share meals with family and friends.

  • Get regular exercise.

Fish also are a key part of the Mediterranean diet. Some healthy choices are:

  • Mackerel

  • Herring

  • Sardines

  • Albacore tuna

  • Salmon

  • Anchovies


Source: American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Mayo Clinic


For Additional Resources:

Mediterranean diet for heart health

Mediterranean diet blends healthy foods, lifestyle

The Mediterranean Diet: A path to longevity, healthy aging and weight loss

PATIENT EDUCATION The Mediterranean Diet

HOCC’s Living Strong Healthy Recipe Collection