The Mediterranean diet is not a meal and exercise plan laid out in a book, rather, it is an overall nutritional approach and lifestyle inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of Italy, Greece, Spain and Morocco. For millennia, inhabitants of the Mediterranean coast have led healthy lives with decreased chance of chronic disease, thanks to a reliance on plant foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, olives and olive oil along with some cheese, yogurt, fish, poultry, eggs and wine. These foods form the basis of the plan and provide an abundance of micronutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
This diet was first introduced in the 1940s by an American doctor, Ancel Keys. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the diet was widely popularized. Although there is no single, official Mediterranean diet, there are countless books by different authors promoting the concept. Most of the foods involved are fresh, seasonal whole foods — with few processed food options. Preparation methods tend to be simple; foods are rarely deep-fried, and only small amounts of saturated fat, sodium, sweets and meat are included.