DNA Diet

Mediterranean Diet Type Application



Mediterranean Diet Type

The Mediterranean food patterns are typical of Crete, Greece and Southern Italy in the early 1960’s. The term is closely tied to traditional areas of olive cultivation in the Mediterranean region more than 30 years ago, and not to the urbanised diet eaten in these countries today. Several studies have established the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some neuro-degenerative diseases and cancers. In addition, it has been shown to be an extremely effective eating plan for the weight loss.


Practical Guidelines


  • The Mediterranean diet emphasises food and eating environment being more important than calculations and macronutrient distributions.
  • The Mediterranean diet focuses on a healthy lifestyle, which includes being active, getting enough rest, sharing meals with family and friends, making time to cook and prepare meals and enjoying cooking and sharing a mealtime together.
  • It is rich in plant foods (whole-grains, vegetables, legumes, tree nuts, seeds and olives).
    • Include plenty of vegetables.
      • Incorporate vegetables at every meal. For example, add a side of mushrooms to an egg breakfast, a tomato and basil salad to lunch, a portion of green beans and butternut at dinner and snack on vegetable crudités.
      • Aim for more portions of vegetables. Such as at lunch and dinner, one can strive for half your plate to be filled with a variety of vegetables.
      • Choose a variety of colours and types of vegetables, such as tomatoes, spinach, yellow peppers, zucchini and eggplant. This ensures intake of a greater variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
      • Aim to eat at least one serving of raw vegetables each day, such as green leafy salads or cut-up vegetables like carrot sticks and cucumber slices.
    • Include legumes (eg. beans, lentils, chickpeas, bean sprouts etc.) more regularly in meals or replace a meat dish with a legume option at least once a week.
    • Include several vegetarian meals in a week.
      • Choose whole grains such as brown rice, barley, oats and quinoa.
      • Opt for foods made with whole grain flour such as whole wheat bread and rye bread, and avoid refined carbohydrate sources such white bread and cakes.
      • Carbohydrates are of better quality when they are good sources of fibre. Read the food labels on starch and carbohydrate-rich food products. A product would be considered high in fibre, if there is more than 6g of fibre per 100g.
      • Eat a variety of fruits in portion-controlled amounts, which should be included with meals
      • Include whole grains or a fruit at most meals.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is the principle source of added fat.
    • Try to use extra virgin olive oil mainly in a raw form as a light dressing or last touch of a meal before eating.
    • Beside olive oil, include plant-based fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives. For example, sprinkle a small handful of unsalted almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds onto salads, add diced olives to salads, stews or sandwiches and snack on a small handful of unsalted nuts during the day.
    • Aim to reduce intake of butter, margarine, ghee, lard, coconut oil and other vegetable oils.
  • Aim for a high to moderate intake of fish and seafood, eating them several times a week. Fish can be white fish (e.g. hake, haddock etc.) or fatty fish (e.g. salmon, trout, sardines, pilchards, mackerel etc.) which are rich in beneficial omega 3 fats. Fatty fish should be eaten at least three times per week.
  • Aim for a low consumption of red meat (lamb, beef and pork) to a maximum of twice per week.
  • Aim for a moderate consumption of eggs, poultry and low-fat dairy products.
  • Avoid foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, pastries, pies, wraps, pita, pizza etc.).
  • Moderate intake of alcohol (mainly wine); preferably to be had with meals, if included however it is not required.
  • Use a variety of fresh herbs and spices.
  • In addition, all foods should be as fresh as possible, minimally processed, locally sourced and seasonal as far as possible.


  • A basic guide for types and sources of carbohydrates and fats:
  • Below is a helpful guide on Mediterranean diet alternatives.

Typical western diet food items

Mediterranean diet alternative

Juice, fruit drinks, pop/soda, specialty coffee and tea with sugar

Water, herbal tea (without sugar)

Cream soup

Broth or clear soup

Vegetable oil, butter, margarine

Extra virgin olive oil

White bread, pasta and rice

Whole grain bread, pasta, rice, whole wheat couscous

Salted, spiced, flavoured nuts and seeds

Unsalted nuts and seeds

Full fat milk, cream, ice cream, cheese and yogurt

Low fat milk, plain yogurt and lower fat cheese such as cottage cheese or ricotta

Red meat (including lamb, goat and pork), processed meats (sausages, luncheon meats, bacon)

Fish, seafood, poultry (including chicken and turkey without the skin) and game meat such as ostrich or rabbit

Canned beans in sauce, re-fried beans

Legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils)


Herbs, spices, onions and garlic

Frozen meals, delivery meals or takeout

Meals prepared at home from scratch

Snack foods such as chips, candy, or baked goods (e.g. cakes, pastries and cookies)

Snacks such as fresh fruit, unsalted nuts and seeds, hummus and pita

Figure: Mediterranean Diet Pyramid (Dernini et al. 2015).

Dernini et al. 2015. Mediterranean diet: from a healthy diet to a sustainable dietary pattern. Front. Nutr. 2:15. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2015.00015