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What is a Mediterranean diet?

Find out what foods make up a typical Mediterranean diet and how it can benefit your health.

A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, France, Greece and Spain.

Mediterranean cuisine varies by region and has a range of definitions, but is largely based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereal grains, olive oil and fish.

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with good health, including a healthier heart. A 2013 study found that people following a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

You can make your diet more Mediterranean-style by:

  • eating plenty of starchy foods, such as bread and pasta
  • eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • eating some fish
  • eating less meat
  • choosing products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil

The diet is similar to the government's healthy eating advice set out in the Eatwell Guide, which shows the foods needed for a balanced, healthy diet.

The Eatwell Guide shows how much you should eat of each food group.

This includes everything you eat during the day, including snacks. So, try to stick to these guidelines:

  • Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. Choose wholegrain varieties wherever you can, or eat potatoes with their skins on for more fibre.
  • Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. Find out how you can get your 5 A DAY.
  • Choose some lean protein, which can be meat, fish, eggs, beans or pulses and other non-dairy sources.
  • Include some milk and dairy foods, such as cheese and yoghurt. These are great sources of protein and calcium.
  • Have only a small amount of foods high in fat and/or sugar, or eat them less often.

It's a good idea to try to get this balance right every day, but you don't need to do it at every meal. You might find it easier to get the balance right over a longer period, such as over the course of a week.

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