The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet may be considered as a “gold standard” eating pattern for CVD risk prevention as adherence to it favorably affects numerous CVD risk factors, including dyslipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes15.

The (traditional) Mediterranean diet (see Table 3) is characterized by:

  • Abundance of plant-based foods encompassing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts;
  • Low to moderate consumption of dairy products;
  • Low consumption of red meat (few times per month);
  • Moderate consumption of fish, poultry and eggs;
    Optional moderate amount of wine, with meals (maximum 1-2 glasses per day for men and 1 glass for women);
  • Olive oil as main source of dietary fats;
  • Herbs and spices to flavor food.

Table 3: Food groups and frequency of consumption according to Mediterranean diet

Daily consumption Weekly Occasionally

Every main meal should contain:
CEREALS and GRAIN FOODS: 1-2 servings per meal in the form of whole grain bread, pasta, rice, barley, couscous and others

VEGETABLES: ≥2 servings per meal, varying in colors. At least one of the servings should be consumed raw

FRUITS: 1-2 servings per meal


LEGUMES ≥ 2 servings

SWEETS (Sugar, candies, pastries and beverages such as sweetened fruit juices and soft drinks)

DAIRY PRODUCTS: low-fat dairy
FISH ≥2 servings


OLIVE OIL (preferably extra virgin) as main source of dietary fats

WHITE MEAT 2 servings


EGGS 2-4


RED MEAT ≤2 servings. Preferably lean cuts

1,5 to 2 liter of WATER

Adapted from Shen J et al., 201515

REMEMBER: The Mediterranean diet includes both healthy dietary and lifestyle habits!

Adherence to a Mediterranean diet has been shown to be beneficial with respect to CVD risk13.

For instance, the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet (PREDIMED) trial has reported significant beneficial effects of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or with a mix of nuts on multiple cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors and primary prevention of CVD16.

Most importantly, cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet in primary prevention of CVD have been extensively observed also in middle-aged people16.

Most of the effects may be ascribed to the changes in the quality of dietary fats (saturated fatty acids replaced by unsaturated fatty acids), a high content of dietary fibre, antioxidant compounds and minerals15, that could synergistically act on several pathways, resulting in a substantial improvement of general and especially heart health15.

REMEMBER: It is never too late to change dietary habits to improve cardiovascular health!