Olive oil for everything, except sunscreen
Sun on their backs, gazing out over the deep blue sea from the top of a dry, windswept hill, the Mediterraneans live the good life. But even if you are following this diet while living in Detroit, you’re in for a treat. Lots of delicious food is on the menu and it will be easy to maintain a social life while following the few restrictions that do exist.
In fact, many in the nutrition world argue that the Mediterranean diet is among the healthiest in the world, but what does this diet actually look like?
For starters, it does not exclude grains. High quality, locally baked, fresh bread is a staple for people living in the Mediterranean regions and so we include a liberal amount of quality carbs in our plan as well. This doesn’t mean that Mediterrean genotypes can go crazy with cheap wheat products like pretzels, or even most breads found in the grocery store. However, the Mediterrean diet can include some fresh baked bread drizzled with a trusted brand of Olive Oil or a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.
With high quality carbohydrates as a staple, omega-3 rich oily fish and nuts and seeds packed with protective monounsaturated fats are next up on the menu. While the Mediterranean diet doesn’t totally exclude beef and lamb, the true staples are leafy greens, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and legumes.
This is a great category to land in. The Gene Food Mediterranean dieters can sample from all types of food, but can’t blow it out with saturated fats. That’s the key rule to follow: evaluate protein based on its omega-3 count and don’t believe the low carb hype. Most of the saturated fat in this diet will come from goat and sheep dairy, which is a staple for Mediterraneans.
What is the scientific basis for this diet? With macronutrient ratios of 25% fats, 55% carbohydrates, and 20% protein primarily from seafood and plant sources, the Mediterranean diet fits within the ranges promulgated by the most recent United States Dietary Guidelines.
Most closely related diet: Nordic
Primary difference with Nordic: Dairy. The Nordic dieters are very likely to be lactose intolerant whereas the Mediterranean dieters have the leeway to add good quality goat and sheep dairy into their meal plan.
Biggest challenge: Sourcing good quality omega-3 sources. When you think Mediterranean, you think oily fish, and that’s a good thing as long as you are eating good quality fish. This diet doesn’t look quite as attractive when a Mediterranean is loading up on farmed salmon. Wild sardines and wild salmon from Bristol Bay in Alaska are two good sources of high quality seafood Mediterraneans can turn to for their weekly fix.
Red meat friendly? Once every couple weeks, a 4-5 oz. piece of grass fed beef or lamb could be a valuable source of nutrition for Mediterraneans. Anymore than that and their lab tests for heart health might not look as good.
Keto friendly: Since carbohydrate metabolism is likely to be robust, we prefer not to see our Mediterranean dieters sitting with the keto kids. Saturated fat heavy keto diets are out for the Mediterranean crowd. Having said that, if they are able to achieve Ketosis relatively easily, they could go the plant based keto route and rely heavily on nuts and seeds, olive oil, sardines and little bits of avocado to get in the Keto zone. Just be sure to test your blood ketones and also be sure to cycle in and out of ketosis.
Carnivore diet friendly? Nope.
Does this diet type handle fermented foods? All day, everyday. Low sugar yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, even some kombucha, it’s all on the menu for the Mediterraneans.
What about pancakes and refined grains: We already touched on it, but absent celiac or gluten sensitivity, good quality bread can be a staple for this genotype, as can oats. The foods to avoid are those wrapped in plastic, foods with added sugar and oil, or really anything made by a giant corporation at scale. Mediterranean dieters have leeway in the carb department, but just play by a simple rule – don’t eat crappy carbs. Leeway in the carbs department does not mean go out and mainline cookies, that isn’t a good look for anyone.
Go to breakfast: Local sourdough toast with lox, olives and wild smoked salmon.