Olive oil is a main ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. But what exactly is the Mediterranean diet?
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Simply put, the Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet eaten by people living in the Mediterranean area. Because this is a vast area covering many countries in South Europe and North Africa, there is no one Mediterranean way of eating. However, there are common foods in this area that make it one of the healthiest in the world.
Foods in the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is mainly plant-based1.
Enjoy plenty of
- Olive oil
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Pulses and legumes
Only small amounts of
- Fish and seafood
- Cheese, yoghurt and eggs
And very little
- Red meat
- Processed foods
- Refined grains
- Processed meats
- Added sugar
The Mediterranean diet: The healthiest diet in the world!
In 2020, the Mediterranean diet was assessed as the healthiest diet in the world for the third year in a row by U.S. News & World Report2.
Following a Mediterranean-style diet has been linked to a reduction in3
- overall mortality
- cardiovascular disease
- coronary heart disease
- cancer risk
- neurodegenerative diseases
- type 2 diabetes risk.
Where Olive Oil fits into the Mediterranean Diet
One of the highlights of the Mediterranean diet is that it’s low in saturated fat and high in plant-based fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. And olive oil is the traditional oil used in Mediterranean countries.
Extra virgin olive oil contributes high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidant phytochemicals: polyphenols, phytosterols and vitamin E to the Mediterranean diet. These are the compounds that are thought to be responsible for many of the health benefits experienced when following the Mediterranean diet4,5.
- Sofi F, Abbate R, Gensini GF, Casini A. Accruing evidence on benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on health: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2010 Nov 1;92(5):1189-96.
- US News. U.S. News Reveals Best Diets Rankings for 2020. January 2020. Accessed November 2020. https://www.usnews.com/info/blogs/press-room/articles/2020-01-02/us-news-reveals-best-diets-rankings-for-2020
- Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A, Sofi F. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials. European journal of clinical nutrition. 2018 Jan;72(1):30-43.
- Grosso G, Marventano S, Yang J, Micek A, Pajak A, Scalfi L, Galvano F, Kales SN. A comprehensive meta-analysis on evidence of Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease: are individual components equal?. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2017 Oct 13;57(15):3218-32.
- Schwingshackl L, Morze J, Hoffmann G. Mediterranean diet and health status: Active ingredients and pharmacological mechanisms. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2020 Mar;177(6):1241-57.