Episode 84 – Thoughts On The Mediterranean Diet


The Mediterranean Diet is a popular dietary approach that is commonly linked with a bunch of health benefits including weight loss/management, heart health and reduction in chronic disease risk.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

  • Based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. 
  • It typically encourages fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. 
  • Meat is included, but less frequently and in comparatively small amounts. Fish is consumed relatively frequently comparatively.  
  • Processed foods, added sugar, and refined grains are relatively limited. 
  • Alcohol is included, but only in small amounts and alongside meals. 

General Positives of the Diet 

  • High in micronutrients 
  • High in fibre 
  • Lots of plant-based foods 
  • Mostly minimally processed foods 
  • Lots of variety 
  • Emphasis on healthy fats 
  • Overall anti-inflammatory style diet 
  • Often linked with stuff beyond just diet e.g. eating meals with others 
  • Less focused on restriction, more focused on inclusion 

Cardiovascular Disease

  • Research has shown reductions in cardiovascular disease, even without changes in cholesterol 

Depression / Anxiety 

  • Link with positive outcomes for mental health, namely depression and anxiety  
  • The SMILEs Trial in ~2016 was the first RCT on Depression and Nutrition
    • Participants were encouraged to follow a Modified Mediterranean Diet 
3 serves 
to 6 
At least 2 
Lean Red Meat 
3 — 4 serves 
3 — 4 serves 
1 serve 
Olive Oil 
2 — 3 serves 
Whole Grains 
5 - 8 serves 
Daily exercise enigy me" with Others 
no mote than 
2 Stinks d 
6 serves 
Drink of 
The ModiMedDiet Food Pyramid
  • The dietary intervention group had a much greater reduction in their depressive symptoms over the three-month period, compared to those in the social support group. 
  • At the end of the trial, a third of those in the dietary support group met the criteria for remission of major depression, compared to 8 percent of those in the social support group. 

And there are Other RCTs on Mediterranean-style approaches and depression, covering multiple different populations, confirming its effectiveness in this context. 

Any Reason We Don’t Use it With Everybody? 

Leah’s thoughts: 

  • Not necessarily suitable for my plant-based clients  
  • May not be optimal for athletes – especially in regards to protein intake  
  • Not necessarily low in calories with a large focus on higher fat foods (olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish) – so may not be the best approach for a fat loss phase, allow you can still use certain principles of it  
  • Dietary interventions are all based on context and while the Mediterranean diet has many benefits, it may not be optimal for every context or goal  

Aidan’s Thoughts: 

  • I have a preference for higher protein intake as a percentage of total calories, particularly for anybody who cares about muscle mass OR those in a fat loss phase. 
  • I love the benefits of extra virgin olive oil. But a traditional Mediterranean diet can have as much as 60ml of olive oil on average, which is ~500kcal. 
  • One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is not associated with weight gain, even while including 500kcal of olive oil is that people following the diet in the traditional sense have minimal intake of high calories foods outside of that. And they often have less access or consumption of hyperpalatable foods. Adding certain stuff like that makes less sense if you also intend on keeping some features of a standard western diet. 
  • It would be pretty time/energy intensive to transfer over to that style of cooking initially. 
  • I think we can achieve similar or better outcomes through taking positive lessons from this dietary approach, but adapting it to our individual situation.