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What foods are common in a Mediterranean diet?

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Quick Answer

A Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. All meals should revolve around these, with the focus on fresh and seasonal foods. The primary source of added fat for cooking or eating bread is olive oil, not butter. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to heart and blood system health. Therefore, fish with these fatty acids, such as sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, are a regular part of the diet.

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Herbs and spices are important for flavoring food, while salt is not. Fish or poultry should provide protein at least two times weekly. The Mediterranean diet calls for a moderate amount of dairy. Red meat shows up on the menu just a few times each month.

Red wine is often included for cooking and accompanying meals. People on the diet severely limit the amount of eggs, desserts and other sweets they consume.

A Mediterranean diet helps reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity and metabolic syndromes. However, overdoing this style of eating is not healthy, either. It is possible to gain weight from excessive amounts of olive oil and nuts. The diet sometimes leads people to have low iron or low calcium levels. Excessive wine consumption is harmful, and pregnant women and individuals at risk for breast cancer should avoid wine completely.

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