What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is one of the most scientifically studied diets. This way of eating has been scientifically proven to improve fertility, depression, cognition, heart health, cancer prevention, improving quality of life and more.

Based off of traditional cuisine from countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain, this diet can be quite diverse. However they key commonalities is that it is high in healthy fats from olives, oily fish, nuts, fruit, vegetables and low in processed foods. In other words high in vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, fatty acids antioxidants and more.

Read on to find out about 7 scientifically proven benefits of the Mediterranean diet.


The Mediterranean Diet helps with depression

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide affecting an estimated with around 300 million people being affected. Between 2005 and 2015 depression increased by a staggering 18.4%.

A randomised controlled trial conducted in 2017 found that the Mediterranean diet can reduce or even cure major depression. Impressively in this study 32% of people suffering from major depression went into remission when following the Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks.

Although there are plenty of observational studies linking diet with mood, this was one of the first randomised controlled trials (Jacka, et al., 2017).


Reduced pre-eclampsia risk & other adverse pregnancy outcomes

A study following 7,798 pregnant women found that adverse pregnancy outcomes reduced with increasing adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Pre-eclampsia risk reduced by 28% for pregnant mothers with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet. In fact, the higher the adherence to this style of eating reduced adverse pregnancy complications by 21%. These complications include gestational diabetes, hypertension, preterm birth, low percentile size, or stillbirth. This was particularly evident in older pregnant women (Makarem, et al., 2022).


Better cardiovascular health than a low-fat diet

A 7 year long study involving over 1,000 patients has concluded that a Mediterranean diet was more effective at preventing cardiovascular disease than a low-fat diet (Delgado-Lista et al., 2022).

Although there is evidence that a low-fat diet improves cardiovascular health, the Mediterranean diet provides better outcomes. This is despite fat nor calories are being limited on the Mediterranean diet.

This way of eating uses olive oil as the primary source of fat which has been proven to lower harmful cholesterol levels.


Inflammation and the Mediterranean diet

Multiple studies show that the Mediterranean diet lowers chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a common symptom of almost every disease and is responsible for many issues such as aches and pains, insomnia, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, weight gain and picking up infections all the time (Pahwa, et al., 2022).

Inflammatory markers were lower in those with the highest adherence to the diet. C-reactive protein was 20% lower, interleukin-6 was 17% lower and white blood cells were 14% (Pahwa, et al., 2022).


The Mediterranean diet improves the quality of life of cancer patients

A small study found that the quality of life of cancer patients improved after changing to a Mediterranean diet. In as little as 8 weeks symptoms of fatigue and body composition improved and inflammation was reduced (Baguley, et al., 2020).

A review of 53 studies has found that this diet may have a significant relationship with the reduction of a number of different cancers. The mechanism is thought to be the protective effect of antioxidants, polyphenols and nutrients that counteracts or slows down the growth of cancer and DNA damage (Mentella, et al., 2019).


Improves memory & cognition in elderly

At this moment in time, there has never been so many people in the world over 65 years old. This segment of the population has sharply increased to over 705 million during 2019. Along with the steep decline in health, one of the most common symptoms with getting older is cognitive decline. Cognitive decline has wide reaching implications with memory, thinking, speech, writing and more being affected (Klimova, et al., 2021).

A systematic review with 8 studies found that eating a Mediterranean style diet was associated with improved memory in the elderly with and without cognitive impairment. The higher the adherence to the diet the better the cognitive function (Klimova, et al., 2021).



Infertility is estimated to affect around 186 million people around the world. It is a condition that is diagnosed after a year of trying to conceive without getting pregnant.

Women with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet showed the most improvement in embryo quality and menstrual cycle regulation. In men this diet improved sperm motility and quality (Alesi, et al., 2022).


Why does the Mediterranean diet have so many health benefits?

The key difference with the Mediterranean diet in comparison to many other ways of eating is that it is rich in oily fish, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Polyphenols are powerful as they are multifaceted when it comes to our health, they are rich in antioxidants, colourful and often bitter compounds that are found in fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.

Healthy fats are crucial for cell integrity, hormone production, brain and skin health and so much more!



Do I think this way of eating is the best diet? Not necessarily but it is a massive improvement from the standard western diet. It may seem like it is the best because it is well studied because it is a traditional way of eating. The Med diet is probably the most studied, but I do think that there would be other ways of eating that are even more beneficial.

Nutrition should be personalised. The reason I say this is because it depends on what is going on with the gut microbiome. An incredible amount of people these days have IBS and severe food intolerances for example. I personally also think that most people do better off of gluten.

Do you have any questions? Please let me know in the comments below.



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  2. Baguley, B. J., Skinner, T. L., Jenkins, D. G., & Wright, O. R. L. (2020). Mediterranean-style dietary pattern improves cancer-related fatigue and quality of life in men with prostate cancer treated with androgen deprivation therapy: A pilot randomised control trial. Clinical Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.05.016
  3. Delgado-Lista, J., Alcala-Diaz, J. F., Torres-Peña, J. D., Quintana-Navarro, G. M., Fuentes, F., Garcia-Rios, A., Ortiz-Morales, A. M., Gonzalez-Requero, A. I., Perez-Caballero, A. I., Yubero-Serrano, E. M., Rangel-Zuñiga, O. A., Camargo, A., Rodriguez-Cantalejo, F., Lopez-Segura, F., Badimon, L., Ordovas, J. M., Perez-Jimenez, F., Perez-Martinez, P., Lopez-Miranda, J., & Alcala-Diaz, J. F. (2022). Long-term secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet and a low-fat diet (CORDIOPREV): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00122-2
  4. ‌Jacka, F.N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R. et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Med 15, 23 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y
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  8. Nour Makarem, Kristi Chau, Eliza C. Miller, Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, Isabella Tous, Whitney Booker, Janet M. Catov, David M. Haas, William A. Grobman, Lisa D. Levine, Rebecca McNeil, C. Noel Bairey Merz, Uma Reddy, Ronald J. Wapner, Melissa S. Wong, Natalie A. Bello. Association of a Mediterranean Diet Pattern With Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Among US Women. JAMA Network Open, 2022; 5 (12): e2248165 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.48165
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By Holistic Nutritionist Chrissy

Chrissy is a university qualified nutritionist who graduated with honours at La Trobe University in Melbourne. One of her favourite hobbies is to read the scientific literature on how to optimise health. When she’s not reading, writing or working she’s with her 3 children outdoors, practicing yoga, jogging or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Chrissy has overcome some debilitating chronic health issues (low mood, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, very bad acne to name a few) with the power of nutrients and correcting gut health, at 39 she now feels better than she did in her 20’s.