• Wed, Apr 24 - 4:15 pm ET

7 Key Components Of A Mediterranean Diet

Foods on a Mediterranean DietShould you be eating like the folks of the Mediterranean? If it’s longevity and good health you seek, then … duh. Nobody outlives those Aegean Islanders, y’all. And it’s somehow tied up in vegetables, fish and olive oil.

Yet figuring out what exactly the “Mediterranean diet” entails can be tricky. Nutrition and health researchers have been so busy marveling over its health-promoting effects that they’ve seldom taken time to lay out any of its parameters.

A new meta-analysis, however, attempts to define the optimal daily intake of various foods and food groups in a Mediterranean diet. The goal was to give a specific “prescription,” for healthy eating, lead researcher Francesco Sofi told MedPage Today.

Sofi’s team looked at 41 studies with a total of 2.9 million participants. According to this analysis, the typical/optimal Mediterranean diet is consists of:

  • Fruit: 4.4 ounces daily for women & 4.9 ounces daily for men
  • Vegetables: 4.9 ounces daily for women and 4.4 ounces daily for men
  • Cereal grains: About 4.5 ounces daily
  • Meat: About 2.5 ounces daily
  • Fish: About .88 ounces daily
  • Legumes: 0.35 ounces daily
  • Dairy products: 7 ounces daily for women and 5.8 for men

But the researchers left out data on one of the most important staples of a Mediterranean diet: Wine. A 2009 study found the biggest chunk of the health advantages a Mediterranean diet confers comes from moderate alcohol (predominantly red wine) consumption.

“There are other cultural aspects too, like eating together and in small portions,” that aren’t captured in the studies, Sofi noted. What exactly defines the diet and its benefits may be more a varied collection of things than any specific or strict dietary plan.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Liz Nolan Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Elizabeth N Brown, health writer, nutritionist, food, nutrition, best diets, brain health, Mediterranean diet
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  • Eileen

    Is my math completely off, or do those components add up to a total of only 65%? There’s no way 35% of your typical Mediterranean person’s diet is wine, right?

    • http://twitter.com/enbrown Elizabeth

      Hahaha, I would like to think so? … Anyway, my brain must be fried b/c that didn’t even occur to me. Looking into where the other 35% went …

    • http://twitter.com/enbrown Elizabeth

      Okay, so I was mixing up my studies before (sorry!). I’ve updated the text above to reflect the correct figures, which were stated as daily intake amounts.

      The percentages I had before were from the 2009 study that said wine was a major component of Mediterranean diets. Those percentages are not *how much of the diet* those food groups made up but *how big of a contribution* they made to the Mediterranean diet’s healthy effects—and, yes, wine does allegedly account for 35%!

      The other most contributing components were meat and fish (17%), vegetables (16%), fruit and nuts (11%), fats (11%) and legumes (10%).

    • Eileen

      That makes much more sense! Thanks.