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Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is less a diet and more a series of healthy lifestyle choices. Unlike some of the other diets on this list, the Mediterranean diet does not guarantee fast results, but is focused instead on long-term health and wellness goals. The goal is to lose weight and get healthier with a combination of balanced food choices, portion control, and increased activity.

The diet focuses primarily on traditional foods from the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. Many of these foods are very healthy and packed with nutrients. Some examples include olive oil, which is high in healthy monounsaturated fat; Greek yogurt, which is incredibly protein-rich and helps curb cravings and stabilize blood sugar in addition to providing probiotics that promote gut health and weight loss; and beans and vegetables that are packed with fiber. Foods recommended by the diet also tend to score low on the glycemic index.

Calories, especially those coming from fats, should be considered, but the diet is far more concerned with portion control and smart eating than counting calories. The Mediterranean diet encourages frequent but "smart" eating.

Scientific Studies:

In 2003, Italian researchers looked at the effect of lifestyle changes on a variety of metabolic parameters. 120 obese but otherwise healthy women participated in the study. Half were simply given information about how to make healthy choices, and the other half received counseling on how to lose weight with exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet. After 2 years, the women in the Mediterranean diet group were eating healthy and getting more fiber, complex carbohydrates, and good fats, and less saturated fat and cholesterol than the other group. Both groups also showed drops in body weight, BMI, and blood pressure, though the effect was more pronounced in those following the Mediterranean diet.

Another 2-year study compared the outcomes of 3 restricted-calorie diets: low-fat, low-carb, and Mediterranean. The researchers found that the Mediterranean and low-carb diets resulted in greater weight loss than the low-fat diet, and also provided other beneficial metabolic effects. The authors concluded by saying that both diets appear to be safe, effective alternatives to a low-fat diet.

A review paper published in 2010 analyzed and compared the results of multiple studies regarding the Mediterranean diet and body weight. The analysis drew on a range of trials from both English and non-English publications. The diet was found to have significant effects on weight and body mass index, and appeared to be especially effective when accompanied by physical activity and energy restrictions such as calorie counting, and when followed for 6 months or more. Another study published in 2010 reported that a Mediterranean diet can also reduce one's chance of developing diabetes.

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