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The Mediterranean Diet | Food List & 7 Days Meal Plan

The Mediterranean Diet | Food List & 7 Days Meal Plan

Table of content

The Mediterranean diet- an overview

Before focusing on the link of the mediterranean diet with insulin sensitivity, it seems essential at first to highlight the different aspects relevant to the Mediterranean diet, which are discussed below:

1. What is the Mediterranean diet?

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Mediterranean diets are those that are traditionally consumed by people of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea (notably, Greece. France, Italy, Spain). Mediterranean diets put a higher focus on plant-based foods. As such, considerable stress and importance are laid on vegetables/ whole grain/ legumes to make up a healthy and delicious diet.

2. Health benefits of mediterranean diets

Health benefits of mediterranean diets

Whether it is the Mediterranean diet or otherwise, the prime objective behind eating should be to stay healthy, active, energetic, and lead a disease-free life. Hence, the menu (to be consumed) must be considered as an essential aspect of prevention against the risk of possible malignancies, notably, diabetes (in addition to cardiovascular and other health complications). In this connection, a few health benefits of consuming Mediterranean diets are enumerated below.

Reducing the risks of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications

Researchers have noted that the people of the Mediterranean region are exceptionally healthy (as compared to the people of other areas, notably, America) and face a much lower risk of food habit-related diseases. Numerous studies have shown that Mediterranean diets can help prevent unhealthy weight gain /heart attack (it is the death of the segment of a heart muscle caused by the loss of blood supply)/ stroke (it is the death of a brain cell due to lack of oxygen caused by the blockage of blood flow to the brain)/ type-2 diabetes (A significant feature of type-2 diabetes is the lack of insulin sensitivity to the body cells, particularly the fat and the muscle cells. Type-2 diabetes is more common than other types of diabetes.)/ premature death.

A study that featured in “The New England Journal of Medicine” compared two sets of Mediterranean diets with a diet control for about five years. The research suggested that the diet reduced cardiovascular risks (including heart attack/ stroke/death) by about 30%.

However, more studies are needed to ascertain whether the lifestyle factors (such as more physical activity in addition to social support facilities) are partly responsible for the lower incidence of heart diseases in the Mediterranean countries (as compared to the other western countries, notably, USA).

Improving sleep quality

In a study (2018), it was suggested that adhering to Mediterranean diets may improve sleep quality in older adults. However, the diet did not seem to have affected sleep quality in younger people.

Preventing unhealthy weight gain

A review (in 2016) noted that people who were overweight or obese lost more weight in the wake of consuming Mediterranean diets (as compared to the people following non-Mediterranean but weight loss-friendly diets).

Conclusively, sticking to Mediterranean diets involves long-term sustainable health benefits. Over and above, many doctors and dietitians recommend Mediterranean diets to prevent the disease from staying healthy and living longer.

3. Mediterranean diet menu

Mediterranean diet menu

What are the food items that exactly belong to the Mediterranean diets, are open to controversy. Because there exist a lot of variations between the countries and even within the same country belonging to the Mediterranean zone. The difference depends to a large extent on the consumer’s preference/ cost of production/ availability of the product lying within the purchasing power of the general consumers/ food value/ age factor/ health condition of the consumer/ cultural factors as well as religious bindings dominating the country.

However, the Mediterranean diets, as examined by most of the studies, are generally found high in healthy plant foods and low in animal foods. Conventionally, consumption of fish and seafood (It includes any form of sea life that is regarded as food by humans, notably, Tuna/ Salmon/ Shellfish/. Historically, sea mammals such as whales/ dolphins were once consumed as food. But the consumption has been significantly reduced in modern times) is highly recommended at least twice a week. Over and above, as an integral part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, regular physical activity/ sharing meals with other people are also as crucial as Mediterranean diets. However, the basics of Mediterranean diets focus on:

3.1) To eat regularly

  • Vegetables: tomato, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, sprout, cucumber.
  • Fruits: apple, banana, orange, pears, strawberries, grapes, figs, melons, peaches.
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, hazelnut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
  • legumes: beans, peas, lentils, pulses.
  • Whole grain: whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, whole wheat, whole grain bread, pasta.
  • Tubers: potato, sweet potato, turnips.
  • Herb and spices: onion, garlic, cinnamon, pepper.
  • Fish and seafood: salmon, sardines, tuna, shrimp.
  • Healthy fat: extra virgin oil, olive oil.

3.2) To eat in moderation

  • Poultry: chicken, duck
  • Egg: chicken and duck eggs
  • Dairy products: cheese/ yogurt 

3.3) To eat rarely

  • Red meat: beef/ mutton/ lamb 

3.4) Never to eat

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • added sugar
  • processed meat
  • refined grain
  • refined oil
  • other highly
  • processed foods.

Conclusively, so far as drink is concerned, water is the best and the most indispensable to sustain life on earth. Tea and coffee may be taken (without adding milk and sugar and a daily maximum of 2 cups). Alcohol should be avoided.

4. Mediterranean diet 7-day meal plan

Mediterranean diet 7-day meal plan

Recognized as one of the healthiest and most delicious types of foods, the Mediterranean diet is easy to follow with seven-day’s meal plans. 

4.1) Day-1 meal plan

  • Breakfast (oats/ Greek yogurt/ strawberries)
  • Lunch (whole grain vegetable sandwich)
  • Dinner (Tuna salad dressed in olive oil/pieces of fruits in a dessert) 

4.2) Day-2 meal plan

  • Breakfast (oatmeal with raisins)
  • Lunch (oatmeal with raisins/ leftover tuna salad of the previous night)
  • Dinner (salad with tomato/ olives/ feta cheese) 

4.3) Day-3 meal plan

  • Breakfast (omelet with veggies/ tomato with onion/ a slice of fruit)
  • Lunch (whole grain sandwich with cheese and fresh vegetables)
  • Dinner (Mediterranean lasagna)

4.4) Day-4 meal plan

  • Breakfast (nuts/yogurt/ sliced fruit/)
  • Lunch (leftover lasagna from the night before)
  • Dinner (Boiled Salmon served with brown rice and vegetables)

4.5) Day- 5 meal plan

  • Breakfast (eggs and vegetables fried in olive oil)
  • Lunch (oats/ nuts/ Greek yogurt/ strawberries)
  • Dinner (Grilled lamb with salad and a baked potato)

4.6) Day-6 meal plan

  • Breakfast (oatmeal with raisins/ nuts/ apple)
  • Lunch (wholegrain sandwich with vegetables)
  • Dinner (Mediterranean pizza made with whole wheat topped with cheese/ vegetables/ olives)

4.7) Day-7 meal plan

  • Breakfast (omelet with veggies and olives)
  • Lunch (leftover pizza from the night before)
  • Dinner (Grilled chicken with vegetables and potato/ dessert with fruits)

Conclusively, the food items contained in the weekly meal plan are distributed at random taking into consideration the need for a healthy balanced diet. Moreover, there is no need for calculating the food value in terms of calorie content or tracking macronutrients (protein/ carb/ fat) in the Mediterranean diet.

How to follow Mediterranean diets outside in restaurants?

While taking foods outside, it is essential to choose fish or seafood as the main dish/ foods fried in extra virgin oil/ whole grain bread/ olive oil instead of butter.

5. What is insulin sensitivity?

What is insulin sensitivity?

Insulin sensitivity describes how sensitive the body is to the effect of insulin. A more insulin sensitive person will require a smaller amount of insulin to lower blood glucose levels (as compared to the person who is less insulin sensitive)

6. Impact of Mediterranean diets on insulin sensitivity

Impact of Mediterranean diets on insulin sensitivity

6.1) Background of the study

The ATTICA Study Report (it was published online on 19- 9- 2007. In this connection it may be mentioned that the ATTICA Study consisted of men and women randomly selected from the ATTICA region in Greece) made an investigation to assert if obese and overweight adults (close to Mediterranean diets) present better insulin sensitivity (in addition to healthy blood pressure level as well as safer lipid profile limits).

6.2) Method

The ATTICA Study is a population-based cohort (number of persons taken together that has randomly enrolled 3042 adult men and women stratified by age/ gender from the greater area of Athens during 2001- 2002. Among the 3042 adults, 1762 were found obese and overweight, of which 60% were male, and 40% were female, and their age was between 20- 89 years. Adherence to Mediterranean diets was assessed through a diet score that was based on a validated food frequency questionnaire).

In the study, blood pressure was measured, and fasting glucose levels, as well as blood lipids, were noted. Insulin sensitivity was also recorded by HOMA (Homogeneous Model Assessment) approach.

6.3) Result

Individuals with excess body weight (in the highest tertile of diet score) were found more insulin sensitive (as compared to those lying in the lower tertile of diet score) after adjusting for age/ gender/ BMI (BMI, i.e. Body Mass Index is measured by taking into account the bodyweight estimated in kg, relative to the height measured in meter. The BMI is measured to ascertain whether a person is obese/ overweight/ underweight or normal, having ideal weight.

  • A perfect weight is indicated by BMI = 20-25
  • Obese is indicated by BMI = over 30 
  • Overweight is indicated by BMI = 25-30
  • Underweight is indicated by BMI = Below 18.5

Statistical analysis revealed the result that insulin sensitivity (as well as total blood cholesterol and systolic blood pressure) was independently, but only modestly correlated with Mediterranean diets (in people with excess body weight).

7) Concluding remarks

The study remarks that people who belong to the high-risk group (overweight and obese) derive limited benefit (against cardiovascular risk) if they follow the Mediterranean diet menu. However, the Mediterranean diet is accepted by most of the familiar people on account of long-term health benefits (in fact, the long-term health benefits, among other things, include a healthy lifestyle. Regularly eating a healthy balanced diet/ taking regular exercise/ maintaining an ideal healthy weight can add years to one’s life and in consequence, reduce the risks of various malignant diseases, including diabetes). So, its adoption could play some role in preventing or delaying cardiovascular complications (in addition to diabetes outcomes) for obese and overweight people.

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