By Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

What if there was a diet that allowed you to eat foods that you actually liked, helped your diabetes, lowered your risk of heart disease, let you drink a little wine, and tasted good, too? Does such a diet even exist? Yes!

The Mediterranean Diet

While this might sound like just one more fad diet to come along, the Mediterranean diet is really more of a lifestyle— and it’s been around for generations. In fact, the Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods and customs of many countries, such as Greece and Italy, that border the Mediterranean Sea. Eating is meant to be enjoyed and shared with others. Being physically active and not smoking are two other important parts of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

What’s so good about the diet?

The Mediterranean diet is good for you for a number of reasons. This kind of eating plan is rich in antioxidants (nutrients that can help fight some diseases), fiber, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats. Studies show that people who eat this way have a lower risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as a lower risk of dying from heart disease. How? This diet can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, along with blood pressure and the risk of having a blood clot.

But there’s more. The Mediterranean way of eating can also lower your chances of getting some types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease and even Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s even possible that the Mediterranean diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes. One study of 13,000 people found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet and ate mostly vegetables, fish and healthy fats, such as olive oil, had a much lower risk of getting diabetes than those who didn’t eat this way.

What about red meat, wine and desserts?

Red meat, such as beef, pork, lamb and veal, are usually only eaten a few times a month—not as often as fish and poultry. Red meats contain more saturated fat (the kind of fat that can raise cholesterol levels) than poultry and fish.

Red wine is a part of the Mediterranean diet, but in limited amounts. For example, men should have no more than two glasses a day, and women, no more than one glass per day. Red wine is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, but some people shouldn’t drink wine or other types of alcohol, including people with heart or liver disease, pregnant or breastfeeding women and those with a history of alcohol abuse. Wine may also increase the risk of low blood glucose for those who take insulin or certain types of diabetes medicines, so always eat food when drinking. Talk with your health care provider if you have any questions about wine or other types of alcohol.

Fruit is usually the choice for dessert.

The following foods are a daily part of the eating plan:

Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, eggplant, peppers, salad greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, carrots—or any kind you like

Fruits: apples, citrus, strawberries, grapes, mangoes, pears, avocados

Grains and starches: couscous, pasta, polenta, brown rice, oatmeal, bulgur, whole-grain breads

Fish and poultry: any kind of fish and seafood— especially salmon, tuna and mackerel; chicken and turkey without skin

Beans and peas: chick peas, lentils, white beans, black beans

Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds

Fats and oils: olives, olive oil, canola oil

Also included, but in smaller amounts, are milk, yogurt and cheese. If milk and yogurt are part of your usual meal plan, just be sure to choose nonfat or low-fat versions. Small amounts of cheese are OK; aim for lower-fat versions, if possible. And season your foods with herbs and garlic.


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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and www.NutritionStarringYOU.com. Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded NutritionBabes.com, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. NutritionBabes.com was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

Dr. Bev is the author of two self-help diabetes books. She has written numerous articles which are published in print and online – always focused on diabetes from the emotional perspective. She also speaks to audiences of people living with diabetes, as well as, to audiences of healthcare professionals and diabetes educators. Dr. Bev, herself, has been living successfully with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years.

In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

Marlene Koch (pronounced ‘cook’) is a nationally recognized nutritionist, popular TV personality and New York Times bestselling author. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. She is a registered dietitian and one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Marlene has taught professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation the principles of healthy cooking and eating. She has been adjunct Nutrition professor and cooking instructor for Columbus State College and the Columbus State Culinary Academy, and she is a nationally recognized expert in weight loss, diabetes, child and adolescent nutrition, and sugar substitutes.

Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

She has been interviewed and quoted in media outlets for WebMD, Atlanta Sports and Fitness, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She has partnered with V-103 Radio to lead supermarket tours as part of a community outreach during National Nutrition Month.

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Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

OmnichannelHealth Media, publisher of DiabetesDigest.com, does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.