The Mediterranean Diet

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Regardless of all the diet fads that are trendy in our world today, the Mediterranean Diet has managed to consistently stay on top as the best. Ever wondered why?

So, what is the Mediterranean Diet, you may ask? It is quite simply a way of eating typical of the way the people living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea traditionally eat.

The foods in a typical Mediterranean Diet include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, herbs, and spices. Eating fish several times during the week is encouraged. You may also enjoy poultry, eggs, and dairy products (cheese and yogurt), but in moderation. Red meat is eaten sparingly. Sweets are reserved for special times, and water happens to be the typical Mediterranean drink.

The Mediterranean Diet is not just about eating fresh, colorful, delicious, and wholesome food. Even if the word ‘diet’ is mentioned in its name, the tendency is for a holistic approach to eating that involves real food. It is more a lifestyle than a typical diet. It involves healthy food choices that help you achieve balance and harmony in your life. It involves regular physical activity like walking or swimming and, more importantly, sharing meals with family and friends.

At this point, you may say, what does sharing food have to do with a healthy lifestyle? You will certainly be amazed at how sharing meals profoundly impacts your mood and mental health and helps you appreciate the pleasures of healthy eating and delicious food. Consequently, it enables you to live longer and have a healthier life. Prophet Muhammed PBUH mentioned that we need to eat together and not separately, for the blessing is in being together.

"It is more a lifestyle than a typical diet."

Several pieces of research have identified that people who follow the Mediterranean diet show a much lower rate of heart disease, chronic diseases like cancer, obesity, and diabetes. The New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 found that people who are on a Mediterranean diet are 30% less likely to have a heart attack, suffer a stroke, or have other heart issues when compared to people on a low-fat diet. This is because the foods in the typical Mediterranean diet are high in antioxidants and provide rich anti-inflammatory properties.

The benefit doesn’t just stop with a healthier heart by lowering inflammation in the body and improving blood vessel functions. The advantage is also associated with the brain. A 2016 review of 18 studies in Frontiers in Nutrition found that following the Mediterranean diet is associated with less cognitive decline, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, better memory and executive function.

Americans struggle with obesity from processed foods, soda, and sugar. Hence, Doctors and Dietitians generally recommend the Mediterranean Diet since it provides all the major food groups needed by an individual and has diverse flavors. It is not like a strict diet and usually tends to be easier to follow. The best thing about this diet is there is no such thing as you can’t eat something. There is moderation involved in the food you consume. You have to stay active. Your diet should be low on red meat, sugar, and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts, etc., that are full of fiber, a nutrient well known for keeping you full. The Prophet PBUH encouraged us to adopt a moderate course in all our affairs.

There isn’t a typical Mediterranean diet because there are over 20 countries that border the Mediterranean. It is more of an eating habit rather than a structured diet. So you are basically on your own to figure out how much to eat to lose weight or maintain your weight, what exercises to engage in and how to shape your Menu at home?

If it is so great, shouldn’t everybody follow the Mediterranean Diet then? In theory, yes, especially Muslims, since most of the Mediterranean diet foods are mentioned in the Quran. However, many people complain that it is expensive to follow and to cook fresh food takes time. So this is a tradeoff that people need to make.

A good criterion to implement when doing our grocery shopping is Quality vs. Quantity. Organic products do cost more, but the benefit of being healthy can’t be easily ignored. We may buy a lot on a given budget if we choose non-organic food items but seeking out Non-GMO ( Non - Genetically modified organisms ) benefits us down the road. Cooking and storing meals ahead of time may also be an option to save time.

In a follow-up article insha’Allah, I will discuss the food mentioned in the Quran and Hadith. Still, I leave you now to think about the health benefits of just one food mentioned in the Quran - Olives:

All benefits of Olives ( according to Islamic Finder )

  1. Cardiovascular benefits (Improves Heart Health, eliminates excess cholesterol, and controls Blood Pressure)

  2. Weight Loss

  3. Cancer Prevention

  4. Decreasing Pain

  5. Improves Skin

  6. Improves Hair Health

  7. Reduces Allergies

  8. Digestive Tract Health

  9. Good Source of Iron

  10. Improve Eye Health

  11. Increase Glutathione levels (helps detoxify chemicals - in your body)

  12. Great source of Vitamin E

  13. Boosts Bone Health

  14. Fights Inflammation

  15. Helps prevent Blood Clots

Living far from the Mediterranean should not deter us from fully adopting the Mediterranean diet philosophies or taking small steps towards a healthier future. Every little effort to help us eat better and feel healthier is a step in the right direction. Till next time insha’Allah, be safe!


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