benefits of mediterranean diet

This Is the #1 Diet for Weight Loss and Heart Health, Says New Report

The Mediterranean diet may improve heart health, brain health, and weight management.


he Mediterranean diet has—yet again—been touted as the best diet for overall health by a panel of nutrition experts at U.S. News and World Report. This is the sixth year the diet has taken the crown, and comes on the heels of the eating style  surging in popularity thanks to Netflix’s Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones—a documentary about regions where elders regularly reach 100. 

The ‘best diet’ distinction is well-earned and the benefits of the Mediterranean diet well-studied: According to Megan Hilbert, M.S., R.D.N., the Mediterranean diet could boost lifespan and healthspan by improving heart and brain health, and promoting weight management (1). 

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is based on the long-standing eating patterns of people living in countries (like Greece, Spain, Italy, and Turkey) around the Mediterranean sea. 

Unlike other eating styles like the carnivore diet, the Mediterranean diet doesn’t rule out specific food groups. Meals are based around colorful, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil, and lean proteins from fish, poultry, and nuts, says  Hilbert.

Herbs and spices—like turmeric, oregano, and rosemary—are used to add flavor without added sodium.

About the Expert:

Megan Hilbert, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered dietitian at Top Nutrition Coaching, who specializes in gut health nutrition, IBS, and intuitive eating.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

It’s non-restrictive

While the Mediterranean diet is picking up major steam thanks to Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones documentary, Hilbert notes that this isn’t just another fad diet. 

“The Mediterranean is one of the most sustainable dietary patterns out there,” says Hilbert. “Most diets fail since they often are very restrictive and/or completely eliminate certain food groups.”

Unlike popular health-centered diets, like keto, paleo, and vegan, the Mediterranean diet contains all major food groups—including animal protein, carbs, and grains—making it easier to stick to long-term, says Hilbert. 

It promotes weight loss

If you’ve struggled with your weight you may have turned to restrictive diets to shed stubborn pounds. The Mediterranean diet could help you reach your goals without ditching any food groups or getting hangry. 

“A Mediterranean-style diet can help with weight management and blood sugar control due to its high concentrations of healthy fat and fiber, which are satiating and can regulate appetite,” Hilbert says. Plus, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, which tend to be low in calories.

The main sources of protein in the Mediterranean diet come from poultry, fish, legumes, and nuts, which are lower in saturated fats and calories than red meat. Diets high in saturated fats have been linked to weight gain (2). 

It prevents cognitive decline

“Because the Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, there’s a link between following this dietary pattern and reductions in risk for cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s,” Hilbert says. And she’s right: a 2023 study published in BMC Medicine found that strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet for 9 years reduced study participants’ dementia risk by 23 percent (3). 

Omega-3s—especially DHA, the primary omega-3 in the brain—may reduce cognitive decline in several ways. One of the most promising: improving neurotransmitter function and blood flow in the brain, which may protect against memory loss and improve cognition, according to a 2022 review (4). 

Plus, some studies suggest that omega-3s may slow the accumulation of amyloid plaques, which are linked to Alzheimer’s (5). 

It supports heart health

People who stick to the Mediterranean diet for at least six months may have lower rates of heart disease and stroke, according to a 2019 clinical review (6). Researchers suspect that this benefit is due to the diet’s high levels of healthy fat and whole grains.

Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fat from olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids from fish may contribute to heart health by reducing blood pressure, plaque build-up, and harmful LDL cholesterol, according to the Heart Foundation.

Eating plenty of whole grains—from brown rice, whole wheat, and oats—could reduce your heart disease risk by up to 30 percent (7). These foods support heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, and supporting weight management (7).

Can I Get These Benefits Without Going All In?

If you’re not ready to take the plunge into Mediterranean style eating, there’s a few great ways to dip your toes in, according to Hilbert:

  • Eat fatty fish (like salmon, tilapia, and tuna) 2 to 3 times a week
  • Switch out your primary cooking oil for a high quality olive oil (look for extra-virgin and low acidity)
  • Snack on more nuts and seeds
  • Swap in legumes (like lentils and chickpeas) instead of animal protein a few times a week


“I also love to recommend that folks play around more with herbs and spices instead of just salt and pepper,” Hilbert says. “Turmeric, oregano, rosemary, and cinnamon are all great ways to get some extra benefits (like lowered oxidative stress and inflammation) while also providing a ton of flavor.”