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History of The Mediterranean Diet, Health Benefits, and Adapting to Other Cuisines

The Mediterranean Diet has been designed to focus on how crops have been raised, harvested, fishing practices, food processing, and preparation. It was promoted in 1975 by a biologist Ancel Keys and his chemist wife Margaret.

This diet focuses on fresh fruits vegetable, grains, dairy, healthy oils, beans, fish, chicken, lean meat, and desserts. The diet achieved popularity in 1990 due to the Harvard University School of Public Health and Ward Willett and his colleagues.

The diet originatef from over 22 countries from studies located in Europe, Asia, and Africia. This basic diet can be adapted to other cuisines and ways of eating. Most cultures eat all the food groups in the Mediterranean Food Pyramid. Consumer on the diet like the variety, flavor, taste, and different types of food groups the diet offers. It has been linked with many health benefits too.

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Photo Source: Oldways Preservative and Exchange Trust: Sciaeon Journal of Nutrition & Diabetic Practice

Understanding the Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Whole Grains, Pasta, Rice and Potatoes

Grains and starches are at the bottom of the pyramid, and dietitians recommend eating whole wheat, rye, or gluten free pastas that have more fiber. Brown, red or black rice is healthier than white rice because it has more fiber. White and sweet potatoes are good sources of carbs in moderation. When you have a gluten intolerance there are many gluten free breads and pastas on the market in your local supermarket or health food stores to try.

Fruits, Vegetable, and Beans

On this diet you can eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits with your meals. Beans are an important source of vegetarian fiber. When you eat a serving of meat, poultry or fish two serving of vegetables is recommended.

Try to eat fruit on this diet with less sugar. A few servings of berries, citrus fruit apples, pears, apricots, peaches, and melons daily contain less sugar. When you eat fruit with more sugar eat one serving per day.

Beans both canned and dried provide vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. There are many kinds of bean that can be added to soups, stews, and main dishes. They have white beans, black, kidney beans, lentils, pea, chickpeas and green beans, e. Beans can be served as side dishes too.

Spices and Herbs

Fresh herbs added to salads, main dishes, and desserts are a way to add flavor and reduce the salt and fat in the recipe. Fresh or dried spices added to salad dressings, sauces, main dishes, soups, stews add flavor making the dish taste better and reducing salt and fat. There are a variety of fresh herbs. like basil, parsley, oregano, chives, and thyme sold in the local supermarket. Dried spices like paprika, garlic, chili powder, curry, work well adding flavor when do not have fresh herbs.

Healthy Oils

Olive oil and avocado oils are considered healthy cooking oils to use in salad dressing for sauteing in stews, soups, sauces and main entrees. There are other healthy cooking oils professional nutrition and diet websites recommended.

Fish and Seafood

Wild caught fish is recommended by dietitians and nutritionists over farm raised. Fish provides nutrients, protein, iodine, vitamins, minerals, and Vitamin D that boosts the immune system and helps with brain health. Wild caught fish like salmon, tuna, red snapper, anchovies, halibut, sole, shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops, oysters, and squid. are good choices of healthy fish to consume.

Dairy, Eggs, Yogurt and Chicken

Organic eggs, low-fat, or regular dairy products without hormones and antibiotics added are good sources of calcium to improve bone health. Chicken without hormones or antibiotics will be a better choice for your health. Yogurt with probiotics will improve digestion and your gut health.


Grass fed meats are recommended on the Mediterranean diet and eating less. Adding two serving or more of vegetables with meat and serving smaller portions is one of the diet guidelines. Meat is at the top of the pyramid meaning you should eat less. Adding a high fiber grain or pasta and vegetables with the meal

is recommended.


Cut back on sugar in your meals. Too much sugar has been linked to chronic illness. Replace desserts with fresh fruit and low sugar recipes. Try a few cookies, 1 slice of cake or pie, and one serving of ice cream. Buy smaller quantities of desserts, eat more fruit, and skip dessert when dining out.

Tips to Get Started

There are many cookbooks and websites with recipes for the Mediterranean Diet. Looking up the term in your favorite search engine will bring results. Some suggestions below.

  • Eat more vegetables at every meal at least two or more servings per day. Try recipes for vegetarian pasta, pizza and other main dishes. Aim to eat a vegetarian meal once weekly.

  • Enjoy fruit as a dessert or added to yogurt or cereal. Try baked recipes with less sugar and buy smaller quantities of sweets when shopping.

  • Drink beverages without salt and sugar and beer and wine one glass per day.

  • Eat less meat try stews, stir fries, soup, and pasta dishes.

  • Try to include more whole grain pasta, bread and grains.

  • Look for meats, seafood, poultry and dairy products without hormones or antibiotics.

  • Search online under the Mediterranean Diet and Recipes or go to a local bookstore and purchase a cookbook.

Ways to Use This Diet With Other Cuisines

Most cuisines use vegetables, fruits beans, whole grains, lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, and healthy oils in their recipes. All types of cuisines have healthy recipes. Look for recipes with vegetables, fruits lean meats, fish, poultry, beans, whole grains, and healthy oils. Below you will be given some ideas of what to look for in recipes and entrees in restaurants.


  • Corn Tortillas or tacos

  • Chili

  • Soups

  • white or brown rice

  • Plantains

  • Beef, fish or chicken tacos with veggies, beans, and rice

  • Beef, chicken or fish dishes with veggies, beans, and rice

  • Stews

  • Salads

  • Salsa

  • Skip meals with cheese sauces and too much sour cream


  • Sushi

  • Samshi

  • steamed rice or ramen noodles

  • Miso Soup

  • Pork and vegetable miso soup

  • Vegetable soup

  • clam miso soup

  • Hibachi dinner with grilled fish, meat, or chicken, vegetables, rice, and special sauces

  • Chicken, fish, steak or shrimp teriyaki

  • Vegetable and fish salads

  • Seaweed salad


  • Hummus

  • Eggplant

  • Stuffed Grapes

  • White Beans

  • Chicken Soup

  • Lentil Soup

  • Greek Salad

  • Greek yogurt

  • Lemon Dill Chicken

  • Greek Spaghetti

  • Chicken Souvlaki

  • Beef kebabs

  • Shrimp Stew

  • Peppers Stuffed with Vegetables

  • Fisherman Soup


  • Chicken Stew

  • Smoked Salmon Salad

  • Mussels

  • Chicken Coq AU Vin

  • Pesto Vegetable Soup

  • Beef Stew

  • White fish with tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and garlic

  • Fish Stew

  • Lobster Thermidor

  • Mussels

  • Bisque

  • Scallops In Shells

  • Soups

  • Salads


  • Steamed fish with vegetables

  • Stir fried chicken, beef and seafood with vegetables

  • Chop Suey

  • Chow Mein

  • Vegetable Dumplings

  • Eggplant with garlic sauce

  • Shrimp with Lobster Sauce or Black Bean Sauce

  • Egg Foo Young

  • Lo Mein

  • White or Brown Rice

  • Hot and Sour Soup

  • Chicken and Rice Soup

  • Shrimp with Vegetables

  • Szechuan chicken, beef, or fish with vegetables

  • Lo Mein

  • Curry


  • Green Papaya Salad

  • Chicken Satay

  • Green or Red Curry with Chicken, Fish, Meat and Vegetables

  • Red Curry

  • Tom Yum Soup

  • Pork with Fried Basil

  • Spicy Beef Salad

  • Thai Garlic Shrimp or Thai Basil Shrimp or Grilled Shrimp

  • Chili Scallops


  • Chicken Tandoori

  • Fish, meat, or chicken curry

  • Kebabs made with lamb, beef, fish, or chicken

  • beans

  • Vegetable stew

  • Lemon rice

  • Chicken Korma

  • eggplant dishes

  • chickpea and curry stew

  • Roti bread

  • Dahl

  • Shrimp, chicken, or lamb dishes in tomato sauce with vegetables

  • Biryani

African American

  • Collard Greens

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Corn Chowder

  • Kale

  • Cornbread

  • Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo

  • Red Beans and Rice

  • Chicken Creole

  • Black Eyed Peas

  • Barbecued Chicken

  • Pork Chops

  • Mac and Cheese

  • Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Rice and Okra

  • Shrimp and Grits

  • Fried Catfish

  • Blackened Fish

  • Jambalaya


The Mediterranean Diet UWESCO

Who Invented the Mediterranean Diet by Yasmin Noone, SBS

Oldways Cultural Food Traditions

Foods In the Mediterranean Diet Photo Source: Sciaeon/Journal of Nutrition and Diabetics/Oldways

Some Recipes To Get You Started on The Mediterranean Diet

Types of Meals On the Mediterranean Diet: Photo Source: Jersey Girl TexanHeart with Monical Hayworth

Creamy Tomato Rice Soup

You will need a saucepan, cutting board, knife, colander or bowl, measuring spoons and cups.

2 cups of canned crushed tomatoes with basil

1/4 cup minced white onion

1/2 cup of fresh spinach diced

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 cup of white or brown rice

2 cups water for cooking rice


In a medium saucepan over medium heat on the stove add 2 cups of crushed tomatoes. On the cutting board cut off ends of the onion discard and remove peel. Cut 1/4 of white onion for soup. Measure 1/2 cup of spinach for soup.

In a bowl with warm water soak onion and spinach for 5 minutes. Drain in colander or sieve. Mince the onion and add to the sauce, chop the spinach remove stems and add to the sauce.

Add 1 cup of broth to sauce and one tablespoon avocado oil. In a microwave container add 2 cup water and one cup rice. Cook according to package directions. Cook the soup about 10 minutes and add one tablespoon sour cream using a whisk to blend it in. Serve with rice when cooked. Serves 4

Tuna Antipasto Salad

You will need a large plate or platter, potato peeler cutting board, knife, colander, small bowls, Ziplock bag, and measuring spoons.

2 red pepper or roasted red peppers in the jar

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 cucumber diced

Green or red leaf lettuce diced.

1 tomato diced

1 can of tuna fish in oil

1/ cup black olives pitted

1 teaspoon lemon juice


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon nutritional yeast optional

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs


Wash the red pepper in a colander, dry, and cut in half. Remove stems and seeds discard. Heat the oven to about 350 and put peppers on a baking sheet. Let the pepper cook for about 30 to 45 minutes and remove. Put them in a plastic Ziplock bag and let them cool. Peel off skin and discard.

Dice the red pepper on a cutting board and put in small bowl. Add olive oil, 1 teaspoon chopped garlic and mix well. Put aside.

In a colander wash the green and red leaf lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. Peel the skin off the cucumber, dice the tomato, and chop the lettuce. Place the ingredients on a platter do not mix. Add the roasted red pepper and olives.

Use the tuna with the oil and add about 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Put on the platter in the middle. For the dressing mix the oil and lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and black pepper. Serve on the side as a dressing. Serves 4.

Lemon Herbed Chicken

You will need a Dutch oven or casserole dish, measuring cups, measuring spoons, small mixing bowl, whisk cutting board, and knife for fresh lemons.

1 package boneless chicken thighs defrosted

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or concentrate

1/2 cup of vegetable broth

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried herbs

1 tablespoon avocado oil


Defrost chicken and put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in Dutch oven or casserole dish with a cover. In a bowl mix the lemon juice, vegetable stock, chopped garlic, black pepper, and dried herbs. Mix with a whisk and add to the pan to coat the chicken on both sides. Heat or cook at 350 degrees on bake or roast, cook the chicken for 45 minutes to one hour. Serve with brown or white rice.

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