The Mediterranean diet gets hyped for a reason. The traditional Italian, Greek, or Spanish way of eating can help you lose weight, slash your cancer risk, and offers your whole body a slew of health perks.
Mediterranean meals—which range even further to France, Croatia, and Turkey—are mainly composed of plant-based foods, with the occasional addition of lean proteins like fish and chicken, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Other options include foods high in fiber, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy fats, like the kind you find in olive oil and nuts, are also a staple. If you drink, red wine will be your libation of choice, while red meats, butter, and added sugar are typically limited.
Overall, it’s one of the healthiest ways to eat, because you’re primarily consuming foods in their whole form, explains Carolyn Brown, M.S., R.D., a nutrition counselor at Foodtrainers in New York City.
In general, Americans tend to eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, while loading up on more processed carbs and sugar. The result? A higher risk of obesity, heart problems, and diabetes, says Brown.
But eating an abundance of Mediterranean staples? That can do your body good. Read on to find out how.