May is International Mediterranean Diet Month

May 20, 2021 | Angie Murad | @muradangie

Chances are you have probably heard of the Mediterranean diet, it’s not your typical trendy diet that restricts food groups. Instead it promotes healthy lifestyle practices by encouraging plant-centered eating with less processed foods, regular physical activity, and social connections. The diet is associated with a lower risk for developing cancer and death from cancer when compared to diets of people who usually eat more meat, refined grains, and sweets.

The Mediterranean diet includes foods traditionally consumed around the Mediterranean Sea from regions of Southern Europe, parts of northern Africa, and southwestern Asia. Plant-based diets can be low in calories when portions are kept in check, reducing the risk of becoming overweight or obese. There is strong evidence that excess body fat increases the risk of at least 12 different kinds of cancers. Losing just 5-10% of your body weight has proven to reduce cancer risk. This may be an achievable goal to begin with.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and plant-based fats (extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds)
  • Moderate portions of low-fat dairy products (low-fat and low added sugar yogurt)
  • Limited intake of red meat (beef, veal, pork, and lamb), the traditional diet recommends only 2 times per month
  • Aim for at least 2 servings (3-5 ounces) of fish or seafood per week
  • Weekly intake of 3 or more servings (1/2 cup) of legumes or beans. Examples of legumes include split peas and lentils.
  • Choose the white meat from poultry and turkey
  • Use of fresh herbs and spices to flavor foods
  • Daily consumption of water
  • Include regular physical activity
  • Enjoy social dining with family and friends

Moderate intake of red wine (one 5-ounce glass per day for women, two 5-ounce glasses for men), is also a component of the diet. Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol which may be beneficial for the heart. However, the research is mixed showing these benefits. It is important to note that guidelines for cancer prevention recommend limiting intake of all types of alcohol or to not drink at all. Six different kinds of cancers are directly linked with alcohol intake. Alcohol is not essential and eating foods like grapes, peanuts, blueberries, or cranberries is another, healthier way to consume resveratrol.

If you would like to try the Mediterranean eating pattern, start with one small sustainable change. When it comes to making dietary changes, my favorite motto is, “progress not perfection.” If you would like to learn more about the Mediterranean diet or try a new recipe check out these resources:

Mayo Clinic internet page: Mayo Clinic Mediterranean diet recipes

OldWays provides information about heritage-based diets: OldWays Mediterranean Diet Information


Do you have a favorite Mediterranean diet recipe that you like to prepare? Please post below!

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Cancer Education blog.

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