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The Mediterranean Diet Is Known For Being Healthy — But It Also Produces Impressive Weight Loss Results

Researcher: “If you could put this way of eating in a pill, it would be a pharmaceutical blockbuster!”

What’s not to love about the Mediterranean way of life? From Greece to Italy, Spain and the South of France, folks living along the shores of this beautiful sea share an appreciation for delicious food. In this part of the world meals often feel like celebrations — with wine and cheese aplenty. But can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight? We asked top doctors and took a deep dive through the research. And what we found was even better than we expected. Keep reading to learn more, including how one woman lost 204 pounds eating this way.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The term Mediterranean Diet gets thrown around a lot in health circles. It’s named after the countries that inspired it, all bordering the Mediterranean sea: mainly Greece, Italy, France and Spain. Often referred to as “the healthiest diet in the world,” the Mediterranean Diet was crowned Best Diet Overall for 2023 by U.S. News & World Report: “It’s also a top-rated diet for those looking for a heart-healthy diet, a diabetes-friendly diet or to promote bone and joint health,” they wrote.

Interestingly, the Mediterranean Diet is actually not really a “diet” in the conventional sense at all. It has no strict rules or restrictions. Instead, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle focused on eating whole foods traditionally found in this region of the world.

The Mediterranean diet relies heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses low in dairy like feta and Manchego, plus plenty of whole grains, as well as nuts, seeds and seafood — which is plentiful thanks to these countries’ proximity to the sea. The diet also welcomes moderate amounts of lean proteins like chicken and eggs.

Most notably, this diet values healthy fats. Fred Pescatore, MD, author of the Mediterranean-inspired plan The Hamptons Diet, offers good news for any dieters who have been struggling on a low-fat deprivation diet. He says, “A Mediterranean Diet does not regard all fats as bad.”

Related: The Top 10 Diets of 2023: How They’re Helping Women Lose 100+ Pounds & How They Can Work for You!

How did the Mediterranean diet become so popular?

For decades researchers have been fascinated by the healthy eating habits of people living in Mediterranean countries. In fact, the 2004 book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, became a bestseller on the premise that certain cultures could eat delicious food and still stay trim and healthy. Then in 2010, Mediterranean diets took the spotlight in the book The Blue Zones by National Geographic nutrition researcher Dan Buettner. Blue Zones are places around the globe where people seem to live the longest and healthiest lives. And two of the five identified Blue Zones fall in the Mediterranean region: the Italian island of Sardinia and the Greek island of Ikaria. Buettner says, “If you could put this way of eating in a pill, it would be a pharmaceutical blockbuster!”

Can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight?

“The Mediterranean diet is the only surefire way to lose weight, and best of all, maintain your weight on the planet,” says Dr. Pescatore. “Incorporating more of the healthiest and most delicious foods available breeds nothing but success.” In fact, a review of five studies found that people lost weight by simply eating Mediterranean meals centered on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and fish, plus helpings of olive oil and small amounts of meat and dairy for a year.

Another study published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes found that people who adhered to a Mediterranean diet were less likely to gain weight over long periods of time. And research conducted in Italy shows that feasting on Mediterranean type fare allows women to maintain a healthy weight, rather than gain, even during menopause.

Finally, in an animal study in the journal Obestiy, monkeys fed a Mediterranean diet ate fewer calories, had as much as 30% less body fat and a BMI that was up to 14% lower than monkeys on a Western diet. While both diets contained a similar proportion of fat, protein and carbs, the Mediterranean diet focused on healthy mono­unsaturated fats from plants. Investigators credit the Mediterranean diet with promoting satiety.

And then there are the hundreds of women we’ve spoken to over the years, like Karrie Blew, 68, of Georgia, who lost 55 pounds in 4.5 months by eating more whole foods rich in healing plant compounds like the ones in Mediterranean cuisine, and Amy Caponi, 56, of Delaware lost 105 pounds eating Mediterranean-inspired meals.

6 health benefits for women of the Mediterranean Diet

A growing body of research shows the Mediterranean diet is linked with a number of additional health benefits. Dawn Harris Sherling, MD, author of Eat Everything, says, “The data support eating patterns like the Mediterranean Diet, which embrace whole foods and emphasize a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as being truly anti-inflammatory and disease-preventing.”

Sherrie Lipscombe, 53, of Maryland, not only lost 90 pounds following a flexible Mediterranean-inspired plan, but her diabetes A1C level dropped from a diabetic 9 to a healthy 5.5. “My doctor said, ‘Oh my, you’re the poster child. I wish other people would do like you do!’” says Sherrie. “I haven’t been this weight since the 1990s!”

1. It eases menopausal symptoms

Women who eat a Mediterranean-style diet report a reduction in hot flashes. MenuPause author Anna Cabeca, DO, an osteopathic doctor focusing on women’s health and weight loss, says, “A huge reason why Italian women have positive menopause experiences is their Mediterranean-style diet…packed with foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.”

2. It improves mood

Dieters also report a drop in mood swings, a boost in overall emotional well-being and an improvement in brainpower while eating this way. Mike Dow, PsyD, author of The Sugar Brain Fix, explains: “The Mediterranean diet is packed with foods that support healthy brain chemistry.”

What’s more, a recent study in PLOS ONE showed that people who followed a Mediterranean diet saw their depression scores drop from the “moderately depressed” range to the normal range after eating Mediterranean-style for just three weeks. Credit largely goes to the diet’s high levels of healthy omega-3 fats, which help boost serotonin, and nutrients like vitamin B, which fosters neural connections, helping your brain run like a finely tuned (joyful!) machine.

(Click through for how maintaining the right omega 3-6-9 ratio leads to weight loss.)

3. It slows brain aging

Mediterranean meals can slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A study out of Israel found that people eating a Mediterranean Diet rich in either healthy-fat walnuts or green seaweed or green tea showed dramatic reductions in brain aging, compared to the group eating a traditional American red-meat diet. Study author, Harvard adjunct nutrition Iris Shai, PhD, thinks the results have a lot to do with power plant compounds called polyphenols — a type of antioxidant — in Mediterranean diets. (Click through to learn how the Mediterranean diet wards of vision-robbing macular degeneration, too.)

4. It protects the heart

Mediterranean cuisine also slashes heart disease risk. Findings of a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine discovered that switching to a Mediterranean diet could reduce around 30% of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease in high-risk patients.

5. It guards against some cancers

This way of eating can also block the growth of cancer, including risk of one of the most deadly forms of breast cancer by as much as 40%.

6. It eases heartburn

Integrative specialist Dana G. Cohen, MD, notes that the Mediterranean diet is shown to decrease and soothe indigestion. Credit goes not only to the anti-inflammatory foods on the menu but also to the foods not on the plan: heartburn triggers such as processed foods like refined sugars and starches. In fact, a study in Diseases of the Esophagus showed that people who stuck to a Mediterranean diet slashed their risk of acid reflux significantly.

Related: 9 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Heartburn Fast at Night — And Wake Up Happy

What to eat on the Mediterranean diet

With all these benefits for your health, there are plenty of reasons to give the Mediterranean diet a try. Read on to learn exactly what to eat on the plan. Health and weight-loss benefits can come from eating these six food groups every day…

Olive oil

jar of olive oil (can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight)
Getty Imags/HakanEliacik : 500px

Mediterranean dieters get a lot of their calories from olive oil, a liquid gold known to improve blood-sugar regulation, fending off cravings and doubling weight loss. The monounsaturated fatty acids in olives also help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, along with the inflammation that can drive middle-age weight issues. (Our taste tester loved Kyoord high-phenolic olive oil.)

Preventive medicine expert Tara Scott, MD, says these feel-good fats are the cornerstone of the diet’s amazing success rates. As she explains, “Eating more good fat instead of carbs drives weight loss.” (Click through for more benefits of olive oil and lemon juice.)

Related: This Surprise Olive Oil Trick Is Helping Women Over 50 Lose Weight Effortlessly


dish with chickpeas (can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight
Getty Images/Joan Ransley

Plant proteins heal the cellular damage that can cause metabolic disruptions. Affordable beans, such as chickpeas, also contain a type of fiber called resistant starch, which aids in weight loss. In addition, other studies have found that chickpea consumption reduces the risk of a variety of chronic illnesses.

Healthy protein

salmon on  plate (can the mediterranean diet help you lose weight
Getty Images/Catherine Falls Commercial

 Fish is abundant in this diet. Catches like salmon are proven to reduce cardiovascular disease risk thanks to their rich stores of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to fish, you can reach for chicken, eggs, and Greek yogurt. Dr. Pescatore says this variety is key to getting amino acid–building protein. “That’s how you crank up metabolism and shed dangerous belly fat.” (Click to learn how high-protein cottage cheese helps with weight loss.)

Deeply colored food and drinks

bottle and 2 glasses of red wine (can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight)
Gety Images/David Epperson

From Medjool dates and pomegranates to eggplant, cabbage, and even red wine, vividly colored foods are packed with powerful plant compounds known to drive slimming and longevity. New research shows that these antioxidants can “feed” good gut bacteria that play a role in reversing weight problems. (Click through to discover more benefits of having wine with dinner.)

Whole grains

Bowl of whole-grain pasta (can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight)
Getty Images/Cris Cantón

On this plan, carbs are allowed! You can enjoy minimally processed cereal-based products like whole grain pasta, bread and brown rice. That’s great news for weight loss, since reserch in the Journal of Nutrition finds that eating at least 3 servings of these foods a day can ward off weight gain and increases in blood pressure.


Mix of spices (can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight)
Getty Images/SGAPhoto

Every flavorful bite of Mediterranean cuisine is filled with herbs and spices that boost satisfaction, preventing overeating. What’s more, compounds in garlic have been shown to speed weight loss. (Click through to see how garlic can also reverse diabetes.) When stocking your kitchen pantry, start with these Mediterranean classics: Italian parsley, garlic, basil, thyme and cilantro.

Related: Curing Your Brain Fog Could Be As Easy As Replacing a Few Spices

Mediterranean diet success story: Vicki Sheerin

before and after of Vicki Sheerin (Can the Mediterranean diet help you lose weight?)
Krystal Radlinski/Verve Studio

After the sudden loss of her grandmother, Vicki Sheerin, 38, knew it was time to try to save her own life. At nearly 400 pounds and battling chronic pain, she reveals, “Every hard, traumatic and challenging moment in life was pacified with something sugary.”

So Vicki started choosing more foods straight from nature, like legumes and healthy fats. She embraced Mediterranean living—focusing more on balancing her lifestyle and less on dietary restrictions. She even became more mindful away from mealtime. Instead of being ruled by cravings and emotional eating, she found intermittent fasting helped her stay focused when it wasn’t mealtime.

Vicki says living this way “rocked my world like an inner nuclear bomb.” She lost up to 20 pounds a month and had more energy for her family and hobbies like yoga. “It was like I made a new best friend in myself.”

Two years and 204 pounds later, Vicki shares, “The journey was long, but I’m the healthiest weight I have ever been in my life.” Her emotional eating is ancient history. “My chronic pain has disappeared too,” she adds. Another bonus: “I purchased a yellow bikini and am absolutely blown away at how amazing I feel in it!”

For more on the health perks of the Mediterranean way of eating, keep reading!

Study After Study: Having a Glass of Wine With Dinner Can Powerfully Improve Health

Lose Up to 14 Pounds in One Week by Making These Two Swaps to the Mediterranean Diet

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