5 Key Points of Mediterranean Diet

“Americans should watch their fat intake and eat smaller portions. They should limit their intake of meat, fats and starchy carbs. They should also adopt a Mediterranean diet.”

– Dr. Robert Lustig, surgeon and pediatric endocrinologist.

Yes, there’s plenty to criticize about this summary of the Mediterranean diet. But I’d suggest it is a superb example of the correct definition of what constitutes good nutrition. As you can see from my article, I’ve spent many years researching the best way to eat — and the best way to avoid a chronic illness.

In an effort to get as much information as possible, I co-authored and edited the Encyclopedia of Health, Diet and Exercise as a guide for the public to learn how to eat well. If you own a library, I highly recommend it.

Meyer Salt, an adjunct professor of public health, shares more:

I thought I’d take a moment to review what I like about this chapter on Mediterranean diets. I think the main thing is the focus on “five hallmarks of the diet: monounsaturated fats, plant sterols, olive oil, walnuts, and almonds.” Instead of focusing on the mechanics of preventing disease (like Dr. Lustig, I have argued, for many years, that the problem was the wrong tools for preventing it), the authors have decided to have a fairly un-Slimming “grub” philosophy of nutrition. The authors make five key points:

1. The extra-virgin olive oil that Europeans (most of whom love olive oil and strive to eat it more often) eat and the substitutions made for it to make it nutritionally equivalent to extra-virgin olive oil to Americans (who, to this day, love extra-virgin olive oil and have been at war with making it nutritionally equivalent to it) are the hallmarks of a healthy diet, not nutritional “engineering.” It is not so much what is in the olive oil as what is not in it that is the dietary hallmark. This distinction is important, of course, but one thing I have learned in my long study of health and nutrition is that nutrition is not defined by what is in the food but by what is out of it. What we need is better logic about what people eat.

2. The suggestion that we follow five elements of a Mediterranean diet is a clear reference to how the diverse peoples and cultures in the Mediterranean region eat. No matter how many fads we try and fail to follow, that’s our reality.

3. Although research has long demonstrated that compounds present in the pine nuts and whole grains are associated with a very well-studied body of disease-preventing metabolic hormones, neither the reviewers nor the authors mentioned any of the other new data on fat and cholesterol, specifically as a cause of coronary disease, diabetes and oral cancers.

4. It’s important to remember that the values and ingredients in the reference books described are what actually make up the Mediterranean diet; the results of people’s studies are irrelevant.

5. Many people suggest that the term “Mediterranean diet” — which covers the whole region, from Greece to Spain to Turkey to Israel — is redundant because the foods in the diet are similar across cultures and ethnicity. I’m not sure.