TL;DR if you’re in a calorie deficit (consistently burning more calories than you eat on a daily basis) then any diet, regardless of whether it’s the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, or the Krispy Kreme diet will make you lose weight.
So no. the best way to lose weight is not necessarily the Mediterranean Diet.
The BBC however recently ran an article making claims to the contrary. The article is actually based on research by Doctors, but I’m going to poke fun at the BBC anyway, just for shits and giggles.
First of all, the whole concept of the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is flawed. What even is it? There’s no clear definition – because there is no such thing. There are 25 Mediterranean countries. Do you really think think they all eat the same diet?
Do people in Spain really eat the same diet as people in Albania? Or Syria? (yes these are both also Mediterranean countries). Of course not.
Even if the Mediterranean diet referred to the eating habits a single country, it would still be a flawed concept, there are still people in France, Spain and Italy that are sick and obese because they eat too much poor quality food (ok maybe not so many as other countries, but hey).
So what is the Mediterranean Diet perceived to be?
According to the BBC;
“Typically, it consists of an abundance of vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals, olive oil and nuts, as well as poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat and butter or animal fats.”
Whether or not this is what our Mediterranean cousins eat day-n day-out, the concept of it being THE ‘healthiest’ diet or the diet that’s ‘best for weight loss is highly debatable.
All the items listed are nutrient dense foods (with the exception of ‘wholegrain’ cereals) that should really be present in pretty much any diet. The problem is the vilification of animal fat.
We know that eating a low fat diet isn’t optimal for health – fats can help with the production of testosterone, which you kind of want unless bitch tits are your thing, but the next biggest crime in nutrition is not eating enough different types of fat.
For years we’ve had the ‘good fats’ mantra rammed down our throats – ‘you ONLY want to eat good fats like salmon, Avocado, Olive Oil and nuts’, granted these are all ‘good’ fats’, but that infers that all other types of fat are ‘bad’, that simply isn’t the case.
You probably don’t want to be chugging down too much trans fat, but animal fats should be a big part of a balanced diet, not so recent studies have discredited any association of heart disease with saturated fat intake. Foods high in saturated fat contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for optimal health, e.g. Butter is one of the very few foods that contains Vitamin K2. A massive slab of steak drenched in garlic butter also tastes fucking good.
So let’s have a quick recap of the different types of fat;
- Monounsaturates – found in Olive Oil, Avocado, Nuts and Seeds
- Polyunsaturates – found in Fatty Fish, Eggs, Nuts and Seeds
- Saturates – Red meat, Coconut Oil, Butter
You should eat them all.
Should you be ‘on’ The Mediterranean Diet
I have a problem with what media are painting the Mediterranean diet out to be for the reasons mentioned above, however, the majority of people would benefit from having more vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fatty fish in their diet, and if you need to rationalise that by saying you’re on the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, then go for it – but make sure you include saturated fat too.
I also have a problem with the BBC promoting this as weight loss diet. This means that most people will read this article and think that eating a ‘good’ diet is something that should be done temporarily to lose weight. If it helps with weight loss (it may not) then great, but if people see it as a temporary diet then they might think that a ‘normal’ nutrition plan consisting of shit loads of stuff like cereal, bread, pasta and sugary junk is ok for their health when it’s not.
Eating a diet comprising of lots vegetables, fish, meat nuts and oils ALL the time is optimal for health, and should therefore be your ‘normal’ nutrition plan rather than a transitory diet. If you want to lose weight then you simply need to be eating less calories than you burn everyday – regardless of what you eat (eating for optimal health and weight loss CAN be two very different things).
Although I said the Mediterranean Diet (plus saturated fat) is good for most people, whether or not you should practise it really depends on your goals.
- Do you want to improve your overall health? – It’s probably perfect for you, but maybe consider swapping out the wholegrains for some saturated fat
- Do you want to lose weight and be healthy? – It’s fine, as long as you’re in a calorie deficit.
- Do you just want to lose weight? – It may not be optimal due to the high fat content – of you’re not eating a lot of nuts or oils and you suddenly add them to your diet they can skyrocket your calorie intake. If you want to lose weight without calorie counting then the higher fat content could pose a problem
- Do you want to build muscle? – So long as you’re getting enough protein, and have enough energy to train intensely, it should be fine.
- Do you want to perform at your very best in an endurance event? – You may need to add extra carbs into the diet. Does this make it NOT the Mediterranean Diet anymore? Who knows?
As you can see, simply blanket prescribing a specific diet to EVERYONE can be pretty dumb.