What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish, and some lean meat such as chicken. Healthy fats like olive oil are also encouraged.

Processed foods, red meat, white bread, butter, and margarine are limited on a Mediterranean diet.

Experts say this way of eating has numerous health benefits and the findings of the JAMA study make sense.

“It’s anti-inflammatory and sufficient in proteins. I do recommend it. It’s a great place to start! It also relies mostly on unprocessed foods. Another great place to start,” said Dana Hunnes, PhD, a senior clinical dietitian at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles who was not involved in the study.

“I’m not at all surprised by their findings,” she told Medical News Today. “A reduction in energy intake plus physical activity that promotes lean mass is bound to lead to the results they got. I’m glad to see the corroboration. Diet can impact body composition because when we eat more calories than our body needs for daily functioning, the excess gets stored as fat. If we also are not physically active, we will also lose more muscle mass with age. So, when we eat a healthy diet, with the appropriate amount of calories, we deposit less fat and maybe even use up our fat stores (thereby having less fat) and we increase our muscle mass and/or lessen the amount of muscle mass we lose with age. Muscle is also more metabolically active than most fat-mass.”

The majority of Americans don’t eat a healthy diet

In the United States, the majorityTrusted Source of people do not eat a healthy diet.

In fact, it’s reported that 9 in 10Trusted Source Americans consume too much sodium and fewer than 1 in 10Trusted Source people eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Wright advises people to take small steps when moving toward a Mediterranean way of eating. She suggests increasing fruits and vegetables at every meal and limiting meats to lean meats that only account for about a quarter of a plate at each meal.

“I always recommend that, especially if individuals have some health issues or health concerns. I really highly encourage them to see a registered dietician because a registered dietitian can work with them to individualize an eating pattern that will help them achieve those health goals,” she added.