Dissecting the Popularity of the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Roundtables are trade events meant to influence nearly all elements of the food industry. Yet, it appears the world doesn’t need any further convincing these days: the diet’s popularity is irrefutable.

“No matter how consumers define health, the Mediterranean diet fits their description,” said Daniella Puglielli, founder of the Mediterranean Diet Roundtable, in an email to The Food Institute.

A new study provided evidence that a high-fat Mediterranean diet can boost heart health. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate low carbs with plenty of unsaturated fat had improved insulin resistance as well as cholesterol levels.

Unsaturated fat sources like fish and olive oil are linked to various health benefits in eating styles like the Mediterranean diet, which is popular in regions like Greece and typically consists of ample amounts of fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, grains, nuts and plant oils, as noted by Business Insider (Oct. 1).

Renowned New York City chef Maria Loi, who operates Loi Estiatorio, has long been a proponent of the Mediterranean diet because of its rich, bold flavors, as she told The Food Institute’s Director of Digital Content Susan Choi in a series of new video interviews.  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3. The video series touches on a wide range of issues, including how Loi led her team through the early stages of the pandemic).

Not only does the Mediterranean diet appear to improve heart health, but it also may help reduce cognitive decline in the elderly, and even slow – to an extent — the signs of aging due to the diet’s use of foods rich in antioxidants, reported The Daily Mail (Sept. 5).

Puglielli further explained the popularity of the Mediterranean diet in an interview with The Food Institute late Monday, an excerpt of which is noted below.

Why does the Mediterranean diet interest so many consumers these days?

Puglielli: “The Mediterranean diet was recognized for the fourth year in a row in 2021 by US News as the best overall diet. I believe that helped in the popularization of this eating pattern. You also have to consider a good presence of ‘Mediterranean heritage’ in the amazing melting pot we call America.”

What are the main benefits, as you see it, of the Mediterranean diet?

Puglielli: “First, let me make a distinction: the word ‘diet’ is not intended as a ‘weight loss’ program. Its root is Greek, and it means a way of life – the entire ritual of consuming a meal together, the pride in culinary cultures. From a nutritional standpoint, the Mediterranean diet is: diverse; healthy because of the inverse proportion of vegetable/meats ratio and use of monosaturated fats such as olive oil; has a tradition of farm to table or freshly sourced food; varied; and with its strong emphasis on fruit, grains, and vegetables is naturally more sustainable.”

How have high-profile chefs like Maria Loi helped the Mediterranean diet movement?

Puglielli: “She is a powerful voice to echo our scientific and ethical messages, part of our advocacy effort.”