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Kira Karapetian

By: Kira Karapetian on January 31st, 2018

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Shop Your Diet Series, Part IV: the Mediterranean Diet

Trends & Research

Cruising the Mediterranean Sea provides travelers with an incredible experience. Visiting some of the most historically important cities on Earth, including Athens, Jerusalem, Madrid, Rome and Venice, just to name a few. Of course, the most important part of any day visiting these places is mealtime. The food in this region is so well regarded that the Mediterranean Diet is embraced the world over for its nutritional value.

In this fourth and final blog of our series on shopping your diet, we look at the Mediterranean Diet and the nutritional value it offers to people who follow it. We’ve already covered Paleo, vegetarian/vegan and keto diets, now we’ll offer some insights into how the Mediterranean Diet might look when filling your shopping cart.

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The Mediterranean Diet defined…but not labeled

The Mediterranean Diet is notably low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat, but high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods. Research shows that people who stick to a Mediterranean Diet live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments.

The Mediterranean Diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating – including lots of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains plus olive oil and red wine – while at the same time limiting unhealthy fats. However, details of the diet vary by region. The French, Spanish and Italians all eat differently, but their diets share many of the same essentials.

While quite popular, less than 600 products make a Mediterranean style or diet claim. In reality, our data shows that more than 150,000 products are actually considered acceptable for individuals who follow a Mediterranean Diet.

“Olive” us are all-in on olive oil

Bad puns aside, the food product most closely associated with a Mediterranean Diet is olive oil because it is the primary source of fat in the diet. Specifically, it contains monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol – aka “bad cholesterol” -- levels when used in place of saturated fat or trans fat. “Virgin” or “extra virgin” olive oils are the least processed forms of olive oil and contain the highest levels of “protective plant compounds” that are good for you. Of the nearly 1,500 olive oil products, 917 of them make the “extra virgin” claim. Further, 27 of them make both the extra virgin and Mediterranean style claims.

Whole Grain goodness

Besides olive oil, another essential ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet is the use of a wide range of whole grains. There are more than 8,600 grains that earn an official Whole Grain Stamp, or make a claim about it containing whole grains or a whole grain ingredient.

The Whole Grain Stamp was created in 2005 by the Whole Grains Council, a food industry group. A Whole Grain Stamp is applied to food products that contain at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The nutty nature of Mediterranean eating

Nuts may be small enough for you to hold a dozen of them in your hand, but they have a big role to play in making the Mediterranean Diet work. Nuts are high in fat.

One serving of almonds, for example, contains roughly 25% of the recommended daily consumption for total fat. Fortunately, most of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated fat, like that found in olive oil. According our data, the most widely available nuts are almonds, peanuts and cashews, in that order.

But how hard is shopping Mediterranean?

To be clear, you should have no problem finding the elements of a Mediterranean Diet along the aisles of any supermarket. In fact, the most popular categories, in order, as: red wine, ground coffee, white wine, trail mix, salsa and other dips, sparkling or carbonated water, olives, pickles, other herbs and spices, and tortilla chips. However, most labels won’t be clearly marked with Mediterranean diet claims so a little extra sleuthing may be in order.

That wraps up our shop your diet series, where we covered four popular diet trends. But maybe we missed yours. Are there any diets you want to know more about? Tell us in the comments!