Why The Mediterranean Diet Consistently Tops 'Best Diet' Rankings

The regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea are known for many things, including stunning coastlines, ancient history, and fascinating architecture. Yet despite all its many other notable characteristics, the Mediterranean is perhaps best known for its incredible cuisine, which is not only delicious but is also well regarded for its positive effects on people's overall health. A perfect example of how the Mediterranean diet (as well as the way of life) has positively influenced the health of individuals can be seen by looking at the island of Ikaria. 

The citizens of Ikaria are known for their long healthy lives and Brit+Co attributes their longevity to their Mediterranean diet. The Greek island boasts over 150 different types of greens that grow on the island, many of which are full of antioxidants. The islanders eat a massive amount of these veggies daily while drinking oodles of tea alongside them. This greens-first approach to food is the basis of the Mediterranean diet — although the word "diet" is a little misleading. 

As noted by Good Morning America, the Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular diets out there because it doesn't cut out any single food group or villainize any of your favorite snacks. Instead, this way of eating is adaptable to any kind of cuisine and has proven to have a positive effect on the body's longevity. So what exactly is the Mediterranean diet, and how does it work for you?

The importance of greens

For those residing in the Mediterranean, this way of eating isn't a "diet" — it's just how they live their lives! Still, those of us who live outside of that part of the world have taken an interest in what specifically Mediterranean individuals eat and how those foods might improve our own eating habits. 

The Mayo Clinic explains that in the mid-20th century, researchers noted that heart disease and stroke, while rampant in the United States, were significantly less common in the Mediterranean. While investigating why this was happening, researchers discovered that the plant-based meals that are so popular in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea played a huge part in people's overall health. The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fresh fruits and herbs, with the addition of olive oil, which lowers total cholesterol when used as a primary source of fat source in lieu of alternatives such as butter. Seafood, dairy, and red meat are not commonly found on the table. If they are, they are consumed in moderation.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, moderation is the best way to summarize this diet. You can still enjoy all your favorite foods, but those foods should no longer be the focus of your meals. Instead, the Mediterranean diet revolves around being flexible and simply focusing more on raw greens and plant-based agricultural products. Simply by placing an emphasis on Mediterranean foods, Everyday Health says that you may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and type 2 diabetes.