If there’s one thing nutrition research has shown in the last few decades, it’s that weight loss is complex. As much as we all might wish for a single diet to change our pants size, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to shedding pounds. Genetics, health history, food preferences, and even personality all play a role in choosing the best weight loss diet for any individual.
That said, as a licensed nutritionist, I’m always happy to weigh in on one diet I believe stands above the rest for a healthy approach to weight loss: the Mediterranean diet. Here’s why, and for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
A Mediterranean diet, based on the eating patterns of the populations around the Mediterranean Sea, centers around a menu of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, seafood, plant protein, and minimal dairy. The frequent use of olive oil and moderate red wine consumption are hallmarks of a traditional Mediterranean diet, and it limits sugar and red meat.
If you follow diet rankings, such as U.S. News and World Reports’ annual list, you may have noticed that, though the Mediterranean diet gets plenty of accolades, it doesn’t always get top billing for weight loss. So what gives? Why would nutrition experts point to it as the healthiest way to lose weight?
In short, a true Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle, not a diet—and gradual, comprehensive lifestyle changes are often far more sustainable than drastic calorie reductions or macronutrient gymnastics. While other diets manipulate macros to “force” the body into dropping weight quickly, a Mediterranean diet works no such voodoo on your system. Instead, it’s a “slow and steady wins the race” approach. On a Mediterranean eating plan, you’re playing the long game toward better overall health. In fact, a true Mediterranean philosophy encompasses not just your eating, but other aspects of a healthy life, such as getting regular physical activity and enjoying meals and social time with others.
It may not be a quick fix, but research reveals it’s a diet that sticks. A 2018 study, for example, monitored more than 32,000 people for 12 years found that not only did a Mediterranean eating plan help people lose weight for over a decade—it also appeared to prevent people at a healthy weight from becoming overweight or obese.
A diet full of fiber from legumes and whole grains, high in healthy fats from nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil, and high in antioxidants from fruits and veggies can only do your health good. On a Mediterranean diet, you’re likely to experience less inflammation, better heart health, and more blood sugar control. Frequently, when these measures of health come into alignment, weight loss is a welcome byproduct. As both a nutritionist and a food lover, this big picture approach to health gets my vote for the healthiest way to lose weight.
Try it yourself with these 15 Best Foods to Eat from The Mediterranean Diet.