Mediterranean Cuisine Health Benefits

Mediterranean-style cuisine is not only delicious, but studies have shown that following the Mediterranean diet promotes good health. 

The Mediterranean diet consists mainly of:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Beans and nuts
  • Healthy grains
  • Fish
  • Olive oil
  • Small amounts of dairy
  • Small amounts of red wine

Other key elements to the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Participating in daily exercise
  • Sharing meals with loved ones
  • Appreciating the flavors of these healthy and delicious foods

Your Challenge: Experience the Mediterranean style of eating and living for one week. 

The following Mediterranean diet guidelines are for most adults. Children, pregnant women and others with special dietary needs should contact their health professional prior to making changes in their daily diet. 

Like the traditional Food Pyramid, foods in the bottom section of the pyramid can be eaten more frequently and in greater amounts; portion sizes and frequency of consumption decrease as you go up the pyramid. 

The all-important bottom section of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid includes grains, vegetables and fruits, which are important sources of vitamins, minerals, energy, antioxidants and fiber. These following foods support good health and weight control. 


Choose breads and other grain products that are whole and minimally processed. Processing and refining removes the valuable nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber.


Eat your vegetables! Eaten raw or fresh, vegetables provide valuable nutrients and make you feel full. 


Consume whole, fresh fruit when possible. Avoid fruit drinks, which contain sugar and don’t have the benefits as fruit juice. 

Olives and Olive Oil 

Enjoy olives plain or in your favorite recipes. Substitute olive oil for your usual cooking oil. 

Nuts, Beans, Legumes and Seeds 

These are good sources of healthy fats, protein and fiber, and they add flavor and texture to recipes. 

Herbs and Spices 

Pitch the salt shaker! Spices and seasonings add more flavor and aromas to food than salt, and many contain health-promoting antioxidants. 

Cheese and Yogurt 

Low fat and nonfat dairy products contain calcium for bone and heart health. In the traditional Mediterranean diet, these are only consumed in low to moderate amounts.

Fish and Shellfish 

Both are good sources of protein. Tuna, herring, sardines, salmon and bream contain omega3 fatty acids. Fish and shellfish are usually not battered or fried. 


Eggs contain high-quality protein and are especially beneficial for people who do not eat meat. 


The Mediterranean Diet includes lean cuts of meat, such as chicken, but in smaller portions than those in American diets. 


Sweets are consumed in small portions, if at all. Fruit is the dessert of choice. Even gelato and sorbet and consumed in small, infrequent amounts. 


Wine is consumed moderately, meaning one five-ounce glass per day for women and two five-ounce glasses for men. Check with your doctor prior to drinking alcohol.


Water regulates body temperature, helps prevent wrinkles, protects the nervous system, cushions joints and rids the body of waste. 

Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Practice moderation -- A balanced and healthy diet allows most foods and drinks, but in moderation and with wise choices.
  • Be active -- Daily physical activity is important to good health; as long as it’s OK with your doctor, include resistance exercise, aerobics and leisurely activities in your routine.
  • Eat your meals in the company of loved ones -- The Mediterranean Diet is based on enjoyment and pleasure; meals are best eaten with others.
  • Weight control is necessary for good health -- Your doctor can help determine your healthy weight; if you are above this range, reduce your portion sizes; if you don’t already exercise, this is a great time to start.

The information on this page was compiled by Rita Sanders, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian, with Christian Hospital since 1998. This material provides general information only. It should not be used in place of the advice, instructions, or treatment given by your doctor or other health care professional.