4 Nutritionists Break Down The Mediterranean Diet

Food trends are constantly evolving, in response to the seasons, popular ingredients, or what’s going viral on social media. A large part of this involves discussions around ways of eating which go into minute detail, with strict rules that can feel overwhelming or impossible to stick to. Advocates confidently share the quick-fixes or benefits of certain diets, but it’s important to get all the facts before changing your eating patterns. In this second instalment of a new series, 4 of our expert nutritionist contributors will break down the most popular diets, advising you from a science-backed, nutritionally-informed perspective about the pros and cons. This week, they offer their take on the Mediterranean diet. To read their breakdown on the ketogenic (“keto”) diet, click here.

Jessica Shand, Naturopathic Nutritionist (NTP)

The Mediterranean diet consists of eating a combination of whole-food staples from countries such as Greece, Italy, France and Spain. This way of eating celebrates eating a largely wholefood, plant-focused plate, and is not restrictive in any way. There is variety at every mealtime, which naturally delivers a rich supply of phytonutrients, fatty acids, fibre, and anti-inflammatory compounds from seasonally grown fruits and vegetables. Being primarily plant-focused, the Mediterranean diet focuses on this seasonal aspect, which can include wild fish, poultry and small amounts of dairy products and red wine.

My favourite part of this way of eating is that it’s all about enjoying food with friends and family. It positions food as so much more than numbers or goals you feel pressure to hit, and highlights that there is real joy in eating healthy food together.

Rosemary Martin, Dietitian (BSc MSc RD)

The Mediterranean diet may bring to mind indulgent pasta dishes and decadent red wine, but this style of eating is actually built on a foundation of whole plant foods. With a large variety of fruits and vegetables, minimally processed legumes and whole grains, and healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds, it is also low in dairy and meat.

The Mediterranean diet is well-studied and has been shown to have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties as well as a beneficial impact on blood fats and gut health (1 & 2). 

Sinéad Berry, Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT, rCNHC)

There’s no single best way to eat, but we can look to the Mediterranean Diet as a guide for making positive food choices, as it’s considered one of the healthiest (3). The numerous health benefits are supported by strong scientific evidence and include reduced risk of inflammation, heart disease (4), various types of cancer (5), type 2 diabetes (6), obesity and metabolic syndrome. It’s also been linked to a slower rate of decline in memory and cognitive ability (7).

This way of eating is all about balance and flavour, which means it’s easy to stick to long term. Much more than just healthy eating, the Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle strategy that also places equal importance on physical activity, social mealtimes and resting after meals. These habits promote positive social connections and overall a less stressful outlook on life.

Rohini Bajekal, Nutritionist and Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Professional (MA Oxon MSc Dip IBLM)

Often, when we refer to the Mediterranean diet, we are referring to diets akin to those of people living in Ikaria in Greece and Sardinia in Italy. Both these places are within the “Blue Zones” – regions of the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives. At its core, the diet is a plant-predominant diet, rich in whole foods such as wholegrains, pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices as well as olive oil; however, it does include some dairy, meat and fish. There is an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet, rich in fibre and heart-healthy polyphenols, which is just one reason why it is a great choice for cardiovascular health. For seven years in a row, the Mediterranean diet has been voted the best diet overall by leading nutrition experts for the US World and News Report on best diets (8).


1. Finicelli M, Di Salle A, Galderisi U, Peluso G. The Mediterranean Diet: An Update of the Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2022;14(14):2956. Published 2022 Jul 19. doi:10.3390/nu14142956

2. Tosti V, Bertozzi B, Fontana L. Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet: Metabolic and Molecular Mechanisms. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018; 73 (3): 318-326. doi:10.1093/gerona/glx227

3. J. Renzella, N. Townsend, J. Jewell, J. Breda, N. Roberts, M. Rayner, K. Wickramasinghe. Health Evidence Network synthesis report 58. World Health Organization. 2018.

4. R. Estruch, E. Ros, J. Salas-Salvadó, et al, Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2018; 378 (34).

5. M.C. Mentella, F. Scaldaferri, C. Ricci, A. Gasbarrini, G.A.D. Miggiano. Cancer and Mediterranean Diet: a review. Nutrients. 2019; 11 (9): 2,059.

6. K. Esposito, M.I. Maiorino, G. Bellastella, et al. A journey into a Mediterranean diet and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review with meta-analyses. BMJ Open. 2015; 5 (8).

7. Shannon, O.M., Ranson, J.M., Gregory, S. et al. Mediterranean diet adherence is associated with lower dementia risk, independent of genetic predisposition: findings from the UK Biobank prospective cohort study. BMC Med. 2023; 21 (81).

8. https://www.usnews.com/info/blogs/press-room/articles/2023-01-03/2023-best-diets

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