The Mediterranean Diet: Delicious and Healthy

We cook with extra virgin olive oil! We have found that olive oil is at its best in simple dishes with products from the region. Olive oil also plays a central role in Mediterranean cuisine. It is often described as beneficial to health. We wanted to know which of these is true. What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is not a diet that prescribes exactly what to eat, but refers to the Mediterranean lifestyle. Studies have shown that people in this region – especially Italy and Greece – are healthier than other Europeans: they suffer less often from obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to the Mediterranean diet, other features of the Mediterranean lifestyle – such as the culture of eating together and regular exercise – are part of the Mediterranean diet.

What is a normal meal for the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is characterised by the Mediterranean climate and traditional Mediterranean agriculture with three land uses: Cereals in the lowlands, grapes and olives on the steep, less fertile slopes and livestock in the mountainous areas. You see cereals in the form of bread and pasta, grapes in the form of wine and fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable fat used in cooking. Meat comes mainly from lamb and mutton, whose milk was processed into cheese. Animal proteins were consumed in small quantities. Fruit and vegetables are mainly consumed from local and seasonal productions.

The Mediterranean diet is based on this original dietary pattern. Although the pyramid shape (see below) indicates which foods are consumed and in what proportion, for example more fruit and vegetables and less dairy products, it does not prescribe specific quantities. Everyone decides for themselves how much food a meal contains, as this varies according to the degree of physical activity and body size.

Source: rediscover goodness oldways

A normal meal in the Mediterranean diet is characterised by:

  • The emphasis is on healthy fats. Olive oil is recommended as the main fat. It replaces other oils and fats such as butter and margarine. Foods that naturally contain healthy fats are also highly recommended, such as avocados, nuts and fatty fish like salmon and sardines. Walnuts and fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • It is recommended to eat fish as an animal protein at least twice a week and to limit other animal proteins such as poultry, eggs and dairy products (cheese or yoghurt) to smaller amounts. This can be on the menu daily or several times a week.
  • Red meat is eaten in very limited quantities, preferably limited to a few times a month.
  • Drinks are mainly water and wine (in moderation): about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women.

Diet is only one part of the Mediterranean diet. These features of the Mediterranean lifestyle are also considered an important part of the Mediterranean diet.

The food culture

In Mediterranean culture, a remarkable amount of time is devoted to food and cooking. If you ask a Sicilian where is the best place to get a certain ingredient or product, you have just started a whole conversation in which all kinds of people interfere or are approached.
Eating together at the table is important. No rushing or eating with your plate on your lap in front of the TV. Time is reserved for eating together. It is a social affair. So loneliness has less chance. Eating comfortably also helps with digestion – because you unconsciously chew more – and you also eat less because you concentrate less on the food. That’s why eating together is also the basis of the Mediterranean diet.

Physical effort

As established, the Mediterranean diet is inseparable from the Mediterranean lifestyle. In addition to eating together and eating healthily, the Mediterranean diet also includes a portion of daily physical activity. It does not have to be heavy physical activity or exercise. Suggestions include walking, exercising, playing and dancing. This can also have a social component and be fun too. It is especially important to exercise regularly.

Mediterranean cuisine: local and seasonal dishes

The idea of regional and seasonal food is not a new concept, but goes back to the way our (great) grandparents lived: in rhythm with the seasons and with ingredients from the region. This is clearly reflected in Mediterranean cuisine. Advantages of this are:

Fresh, tasty and healthy

When fruits and vegetables are harvested from suitable soil and at the right time – i.e. in season – they contain more nutrients. This makes them healthier and tastier. If they also come from the neighbourhood, they don’t have to come from far and can be in the shop and on your plate in no time. This prevents them from losing nutrients and flavour.

Better for the environment

When products are in season, they do not have to be grown in a greenhouse. That costs a lot of energy. And when they are grown locally, it means they don’t have to travel as far and therefore fewer ‘food miles’ are travelled by boat, truck or plane. Regional products that are in season are cheaper and also better for the environment.

Cooking more creatively

It may seem monotonous to cook with seasonal and local ingredients. However, it also challenges people to be creative with the abundant seasonal produce. For example, by processing them in different ways so that they can be stored for longer. There is a real art to preserving, drying and fermenting ingredients so that you can enjoy them all year round.

Can you lose weight with the Mediterranean diet?

According to the Harvard Diet Review, the Mediterranean diet can help you lose weight, but in the end, losing weight is about reducing your calorie intake per day. The Harvard School of Public Health itself said the following in 2018: “Research supports the use of the Mediterranean diet as a healthy diet to prevent cardiovascular disease, extend lifespan and promote healthy ageing. When combined with calorie restriction, the diet can also support healthy weight loss.”
One important reason why the Mediterranean diet works for weight loss is the use of olive oil. A study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) tested the role of oils and fats on the feeling of satiety. The conclusion of the study was that olive oil gives a particularly high feeling of satiety compared to other vegetable and animal oils.

Feeling full

Foods with olive oil are perceived as more filling than foods with other oils. A higher feeling of fullness is associated with less hunger and thus a lower calorie intake. According to a study by the TUMunich, Italian olive oil in particular contains large amounts of the flavouring substances hexanal and E2-hexanal, which reduce the absorption of glucose from the blood into the liver cells and regulate the feeling of satiety. A high-quality olive oil is therefore indispensable for the Mediterranean diet to achieve a high level of satiety and weight loss.

What are the disadvantages of the Mediterranean diet?

  • A potential disadvantage of the Mediterranean diet is excessive calorie intake. The Mediterranean diet does not prescribe specific amounts or portion sizes. This can lead to weight gain. Precise information on the allowable amounts of each food group can help.
  • In addition, the Mediterranean diet requires a change in eating habits beyond adding olive oil or eating a little more nuts. It is not a quick way to lose weight, but it is about adopting or perhaps even learning a lifestyle of healthier eating and more physical exertion. Ultimately, this healthier lifestyle leads to weight loss and better health. It is likely that the Mediterranean diet is filling – partly due to the higher intake of olive oil and less processed foods. This makes it possible to maintain the Mediterranean diet in the long term. (1)
  • The cost of the Mediterranean diet. Although you don’t need to buy expensive supplements, the diet revolves around high-quality foods, such as good olive oil and nuts, as well as fish and plenty of fresh and organic vegetables. This can add to the price of your shopping list. (2)
  • Not all produce in the Mediterranean diet can be substituted, but if possible, you could look for local varieties such as neighbourhood vegetables and fruit, and preferably those that are in season. The key is to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. You can find a seasonal calendar for fruit and vegetables in the Netherlands here. This also makes a difference in CO2 emissions. This calculator helps to calculate the impact of the different options on the climate.

How to enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and Meditarranean olive oil?

Mediterranean food doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s not only healthy, but also delicious. Check out our recipes from il circolo. If you want to try high quality extra vergin olive oil, you’ve come to the right place. You can find organic extra virgin olive oil and deliciously flavoured olive oil in our webshop. We import the olive oil ourselves from Sicily and can therefore guarantee the best quality. Take a look at our webshop and get to know our products!



  1. Harvard School of Public Health “Diet Review: Mediterranean Diet”
  2. “The Pros and Cons of a Mediterranean Diet”


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