Sometimes we’re so busy with our daily lives that we care more about what our food taste like than what macronutrients we can get out of them.
Following the Mediterranean diet means that you mimic how the people living in the Mediterranean region eat their food – and even their lifestyle. It emphasizes whole foods and is high in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. There is enough evidence that proves beyond any shadow of a doubt it improves cardiovascular health, weight loss, and even lower the risks of Alzheimer’s and metabolic diseases.
While the diet plan is non-restrictive, it does have certain portions or macronutrients (macros) that are observed under the umbrella of the Mediterranean diet. Macros are the 3 elementary nutrients that are required to have a healthy diet. They are primarily broken into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. In order to explain to you how macronutrients work specifically in the Mediterranean diet, we talked to several nutritionists for some in-depth knowledge.
What are the Typical Macronutrients in a Mediterranean Diet?
According to registered dietitian Isabel Smith, R.D., CDN, when you break down the Mediterranean diet to find out its macronutrients, then you’ll find that it consists of 50% carbohydrates, 15% proteins, and 35% fats. A typical plate of food from the Mediterranean diet should have 50% vegetables, 25% whole grains, and 25% protein. About 10% of your protein may include healthy fats
It’s important to understand which vegetables to include on your meal, as it makes up the largest portion of a Mediterranean plate. Smith confirms that all sorts of vegetables can be included, although they may differ in macronutrients content. For instance, the vegetables that have dark green leaves contain a variety of antioxidants and carotenoids that are basically anti free radicals and anti-inflammatory compounds. They’re also generally high in vitamins and minerals. You should include spinach, broccoli, kale, and arugula to your meals in order to get these benefits.
Another simpler way you can take advantage of the highly beneficial macronutrients from vegetables is by eating salads. Doctor Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., (integrative medicine) said that eating traditional Greek salad made with tomatoes, cucumber, green peppers, onions, olives, and feta makes a delicious salad dish while providing the best macronutrients for your body. Other vegetables to include are the carrots, brussels sprouts, garlic, cauliflower, bell peppers, artichokes, zucchini, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, celery, fennel, cabbage, leeks, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and many more.
The most attractive thing about the Mediterranean diet is its progressive non-restrictive nature. Compared to other diets that restrict people from eating bread and other carbohydrates, the Mediterranean diet does not barr anyone from consuming them. Unprocessed whole grains are a healthy source of fiber, protein, and micronutrients including magnesium, zinc, and copper. Healthy grains such as quinoa, barley, brown rice, and faro are just among the few examples that are allowed in the Mediterranean diet. Let’s not forget lentils also. Other types of whole grains that deserve to be included here are buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oats, polenta, rice, wheat berries, whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, chickpeas, beans, peas, and peanuts.
What about Proteins?
The traditional Mediterranean diet is not a big fan of meat and prefers vegetables, but Smith says that you can still include certain meats in your diet. This can include fish and seafood (i.e. SMASH fish, tuna, trout, sea bass, shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams, and crab), chicken, turkey, and some lean meats (red meat is heavily discouraged). Other good sources of animal protein are eggs and dairy products. As for dairy products Greek yogurt, goat milk, feta cheese, and goat cheese are also allowed in this diet. The Mediterranean diet has a variety of sources of protein that is a key part of the macronutrients that your body needs.
In case, you’re vegetarian or vegan and want to follow the Mediterranean diet, then you can get your protein from tofu, legumes, and nuts. By eating high-protein snacks, like hummus made of chickpeas, you effectively eliminate the need for craving carbs between meals which can help you lose weight. Other good sources of protein are beans, peas, peanuts, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella.
Gandhi reiterated that the Mediterranean diet is rich in monounsaturated fats like olive oil and polyunsaturated fat including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These anti-inflammatory essential acids do not occur naturally in the human body and that’s why we need to consume enough of them to keep our bodies in good condition. Healthy fats that make up the essential macronutrients and are allowed in the Mediterranean diet include fatty fish, olives, nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, etc.), avocados, and seeds (sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.). Use Extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil to cook your food and to sprinkle on salads, as they contain healthy fats.
What about Alcohol and Dessert?
The Mediterranean diet advises people to use sugars sparingly as consuming it in excess has disadvantageous effects on the body. Antioxidant-rich foods like wine or dark chocolate are also encouraged in this diet plan, albeit you consume them in moderation. Fruit bowls, yogurt with honey, and olive oil cake are among the options for your desserts and as you can see, the Mediterranean diet does not restrict you from consuming sweets just as long as you avoid processed foods, refined grains, and excess sugars.
Bottom Line on Macronutrients
A typical plate of food under the Mediterranean diet is composed of carbohydrates from vegetables and whole grains, plus some proteins and a small amount of healthy fats. Fruits are also a primary staple of the Mediterranean diet even though they are not featured as much as the other foods. Consider these Mediterranean diet macronutrients when you’re thinking about preparing breakfast, snacks, salads, dinner, or desserts for consumption.