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Mediterranean Diet Vs Paleo Diet – Which Diet Is Better?

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Have you ever heard anything about the Mediterranean diet before?

I bet you did!

It is one of the most popular diets that is considered to be the healthiest diets by the American dietary guidelines and many more.

It is also recommended by the majority of doctors as a healthy way to improve your health and lose extra inches.

However, a lot of people in North America found that even though it promotes health and weight loss, it is not as efficient as some other diets in reaching certain health goals.

Why?

Because North American food industry has some specifics that includes adding hidden sugar to the healthy products or not labeling GMO foods or ingredients to name a few.

But this is the topic for another post.

Here we will talk about is the Mediterranean Diet? And how is it different from the Paleo diet?

What Is The Mediterranean Diet?

As you could probably guess, the origins of the Mediterranean diet come from the eating habits of people living in the Mediterranean region, which includes Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey.

Similar to the Paleo diet it promotes a healthy lifestyle and weight loss.

Mediterranean Diet Vs Paleo DietThe Mediterranean diet is believed to be the healthiest diet for a couple of reason:

  1. It promotes a healthy lifestyle;
  2. It is a well-balanced diet that includes the balance between all macro- and micronutrients, such as protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals;
  3. It is a high-fiber diet that includes high consumption of vegetables and fruits;
  4. It is considered an ‘enjoyable’ diet as it does not eliminate any specific food groups but promotes a healthy balance between them;
  5. It allows having a glass of wine per day to complete the meal.

As you can see the Mediterranean diet looks like an easy diet to follow.

Even though it has been around for centuries, the real interest to it arises by the American biologist Ancel Keys and his wife chemist Margaret Keys in the Seven Countries Study published in 1970.

However, the version of the diet that we know today was presented by the Harvard University doctor Walter Willet in the mid-1990s (1).

What Are The Main Principles Of The Mediterranean Diet?

As it was mentioned before the Mediterranean diet is a well-balanced diet where all the food groups are presented.

The Mediterranean diet basics are very simple:

Mediterranean Diet Vs Paleo Diet

The Mediterranean diet encourages eating whole foods.

Whole foods are foods that consist of one ingredient provided by nature.

And because the Mediterranean diet is more of the way of eating in that region, it is hard to determine any specific foods that need to be incorporated into the diet.

However, in the studies, the diet is determined to be high in plant foods and low in animal foods.

The other main principles are to limit the consumption of fat. It promotes the consumption of monounsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil.

It also encourages eating fish and seafood at least twice a week.

Water is the main beverage in this diet. However, a glass of red wine is acceptable once per day with the main meal.

Coffee and tea are acceptable too.

The Mediterranean Diet promotes regular physical activity, enjoying life and sharing meals.

Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet may offer plenty of benefits that people from the Mediterranean area enjoyed for centuries.

The Harvard School of Public Health suggests that “Together with regular physical activity and not smoking, our analyses suggest that over 80% of coronary heart disease, 70% of stroke, and 90% of type 2 diabetes can be avoided by healthy food choices that are consistent with the traditional Mediterranean diet (2)”

Here are a few of the health benefits that the Mediterranean diet may offer:

1. Healthy and Delicious Foodmediterranean-diet-vs-paleo-diet

We are all familiar with the Italian cuisine (and I am not talking only about the North-American version of pasta and pizza).

The Mediterranean diet offers not only plenty of plant-based foods but also locally caught fish and seafood.

Fish like anchovies, wild caught salmon, sardines are a central part of this diet.

On the other hand, the diet limits the consumption of animal products and by-products. It still cannot be considered as vegetarian through the consumption of meat is limited to once or twice a week.

Dessert is also important.

However, originally Mediterranean countries were not familiar with artificial ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and preservatives including food enhancers that make us addictive to certain foods.

Indeed, people from the Mediterranean region enjoy fruit or small quantity of homemade desserts with natural sweeteners like honey.

2. Help with the Weight Loss

This is definitely what a lot of us is looking for in any diet.

The Mediterranean diet promotes a healthy way of losing weight without deprivation and feeling hungry.

It is considered as a realistic diet where none of the main food groups is being excluded.

The advantage of this diet is that you could modify it based on your needs.

If you are looking for a weight loss this diet is flexible in reducing the carbohydrates intake and increasing the consumption of healthy fats and high-quality protein (mainly, fish and dairy products).

Another important note is that people from the Mediterranean region do a lot of sprouting, soaking and marinating. That is very important as it promotes a healthy gut.

3. Prevent Diabetes

As the diet limits natural sweeteners intake and excludes any artificial sweeteners it helps with insulin level control and therefore with chronic inflammation such as type 2 diabetes (3).

The natural balance of food that the diet promotes helps us burn fat naturally and use it as a source of energy.

It could also be considered as a low carbohydrates diet as it promotes the consumption of fruits and occasional homemade desserts. Soda and any artificially sweetened drinks are not popular in that region.

The typical meal plan for this diet consists of a balanced breakfast that is eaten one or two hours of waking up to start the day and balance the blood sugar level.

Later through the day, it promotes 3 healthy meals with plenty of fiber and vegetables.

People from the Mediterranean region typically eat big meals through the day and have a light supper in the evening.

As you can see there is a big difference with the North-American diet where we skip breakfast and leave big meals for the second part of the day.

4. Promote Heart Health

Mediterranean Diet Vs Paleo DietThe traditional Mediterranean diet includes healthy fats like olive oil and Omega-3 foods.

The diet is rich in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) that is presented in olive oil that can decrease the risk of cardiac death by 30% and sudden cardiac death by 45% (4).

Another research showed that consumption of extra virgin olive oil may decrease blood pressure by a significant amount (5).

Olive oil is also beneficial to keep arteries dilated and clear.

5. Prevent Cancer

The Mediterranean diet contains a balanced ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty assets and high amounts of fiber and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.

All this play an important role as a biological mechanism for cancer prevention according to the European Journal of Cancer Prevention (6).

Many studies also show that olive oil might also be a natural cancer cure and might decrease the risk of colon and bowel cancers.

6. Improve Cognitive Health and Mood

Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds, plenty of veggies and fruits are well-known to fight age-related cognitive decline.

Indeed, the Mediterranean diet can lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease (7).

Probiotic-containing foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut etc promote a healthy gut, which is related to the cognitive function, memory and mood disorders.

How Is The Mediterranean Diet Different From The Paleo Diet?

Both diets promote healthy lifestyles and weight loss.

The Mediterranean diet and the Paleo diet encourage eating whole foods provided by nature and eliminate all processed and refined foods.

They also eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners consumption and lean towards natural sweeteners in very moderate amounts.

Even though there are certain similarities, there are much more differences between these two diets and here are some of them:

1. Goal Settings

As we all know the Paleo diet principles are very similar to the Mediterranean diet principles, namely:

  • Eat whole foods
  • Eliminate all processed and refined foods.

The key point of the Paleo diet is to eliminate foods causing inflammation in our body and allow our body to heal.

The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, does not set any specific health goals. It simply promotes a healthy lifestyle by offering a well-balanced diet.

2. Food List

The Mediterranean diet does not exclude any major food groups except for sugar and processed and refined foods. It limits the consumption of certain foods such as red meat.

The Paleo diet, on the other hand, eliminates food groups that cause inflammation in our body such as:

  • grains
  • legumes
  • dairy
  • sugar.

3. Alcohol consumption

The Mediterranean diet limits the alcohol consumption to one glass of red wine a day during the meal.

The Paleo diet completely eliminates alcohol consumption.

Which Diet Is Better?

Mediterranean Diet Vs Paleo DietIt will all depend on your health goals.

The Paleo diet was designed to provide your gut with the healing environment by eliminating inflammatory foods.

Once the healing is reached previously eliminated foods could be introduced back.

However, we need to pay attention to how our body reacts to the food introduction. If we cannot tolerate certain foods, we would want to avoid having it in your diet.

The Mediterranean diet equips us with all necessary tools to start a healthy lifestyle without too many limitations. It promotes health and weight loss.

However, there is one thing that needs to be considered.

The Mediterranean diet principles were borrowed from the specific geographical region.

What it means is that people who live in that area have free access to the seafood, fresh veggies, and fruits, whole grains. GMO or steroids are not even known in these countries.

In North America, a lot of healthy foods we eat may contain GMO or hidden sugar. Even bread may contain hidden sugar that we might not even be aware of.

So even though the Mediterranean diet is truly a well-balanced diet, we still would have to consider all the specifics of the food industry at the place we live.

Sources:

  1. https://draxe.com
  2. https://www.healthline.com
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org

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16 thoughts on “Mediterranean Diet Vs Paleo Diet – Which Diet Is Better?

  1. Great post, very informative and interesting.
    You have great and a compelling case for both diets.
    I hope my articles will be that good.
    Great job!

    • Hi Joel,
      Thank you for your feedback.
      Whenever you need to make a change and sometimes not because of your desire but because of certain medical conditions it is hard to find a right diet. The problem is very often even doctors cannot recommend a specific diet, simply because they do not have enough knowledge on that.
      Mediterranean diet is one of the diets that is promoted as the healthiest diet. Though we have to make adjustments to the specifics of the area we live compared with people who live in the Mediterranean region.
      The diet itself is absolutely a well-balanced diet and promotes health and weight loss.
      The problem we face here in North America is that sometimes we eat foods that have hidden ingredients that we either are not aware of or cannot identify based on the ingredient list.
      Both diets are great but serve different purposes. The paleo diet teaches us on how to listen to our bodies and help out gut work properly. The Mediterranean diet teaches us eating moderately and enjoy life.

  2. I think I’d have a really tough time with either diet over the long haul due to the limitations of alcohol consumption! It seems like the Mediterranean diet may be a better choice for me.

    I know most people don’t follow a diet to a T anyway, but what would you say the biggest impact will be if I have an additional glass of wine here and there? Obviously each glass has about 150 calories in it, but beyond that will it heavily limit the other benefits?

    • Hi Craig,
      The problem with alcohol is not the calories. When you consume alcohol your body process it into sugar, that in its turn cause your liver work harder and your brain craves for it more.
      The Paleo diet does not except alcohol due to its inflammatory qualities. And the whole idea of the Paleo diet is to help your gut heal. However, once you reached your health goal you could add some excluded foods back, but you have to closely monitor your body’s reaction. If you cannot tolerate certain food groups, you would want to completely eliminate it from your diet.
      Hope it helps.

  3. Thank you for this quality post on the overall benefits of Paleo over Mediterranean w.o.e.
    The importance of eliminating inflammation in our bodies is more important than having a so-called “balanced” diet.
    Balanced by whose standards?
    I have had to give up sugar, dairy, beef, eggs, and other foods because I just cannot tolerate them anymore after years of trying to eat “healthy”.
    I hope that one day, health professionals will give up the idea of one-size-fits-all for health and just let us eat what our individual bodies enjoy and crave for robust health.
    I will bookmark your site 🙂

    • Hi Irma,
      Thank you for your feedback.
      When I was writing this post that was exactly my thoughts. We were taught to eat healthily. But as you mentioned, who created these healthy standards for us?
      You know what is the answer?
      The food industry.
      Remember how in 1950s everybody decided that fats are bad including healthy fats? And the shelves in the supermarkets were filled with low-fat products. It was proven that that research was sponsored by the sugar companies, so they could provide us with more sugar in that low-fat products. Why? Because you would not be able to eat unsweetened low-fat products, it is too sour.
      And I totally agree with you that we are all different. We all have different genes. What suits for one, will not suit for another.

  4. Wow I hadn’t realized the difference between the Mediterranean diet and the paleo diet until I read this. I was thinking of trying the Mediterranean diet until i read about the GMO and hidden sugars.
    Living in the U S where it seems there is no safe food to be bought from the store anymore. You can’t even believe the labels. Chick that says free roam, means they are in a caged environment outside.
    I am really thinking of trying paleo as it seems the foods that you are allowed will be easier to get without having to spend hours reading ingredients.
    Thank you very much for this information. It has helped me quite a bit.

    • Hi Lee Ann,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Yes, unfortunately, the food industry is a business and has its own interest in selling us whatever will make us crave that food more.
      What is more important is that a lot of people do not even read ingredient lit=st, they just trust the label that promises that the food they are buying is healthy.
      Both diets actually promote whole foods consumption, meaning foods that consist only of 1 ingredient (like fruits and vegetables).
      The main difference between these two diets is the purpose.
      The Paleo diet main goal is to help your gut heal by eliminating foods causing inflammation in your body.
      The Mediterranean diet promotes a well-balanced diet solution that will help you enjoy your food without eliminating certain food groups. This is only good if you do not have any food intolerances.
      So really both diets are great, but we always need to read labels and know what we are eating and what health goals we want to reach.

  5. I would definitely go for a Mediterranean diet.

    It is the food I like anyway. Ok, I don’t see any spaghetti and pizza there but without them, I can survive too.
    Italian salads and seafood salads are delicious and with extra virgin olive oil and whine vinegar, everything is great to eat.
    Some red meat once or twice a week is ok, If I can eat fish every day.
    I live in Thailand and most things the Mediterranean eat we eat here too. The only thing I have to buy is olive oil and vinegar.

    • Hi Stefan,
      Thank you for your feedback.
      Absolutely, if you feel that the Mediterranean diet is the closest to your mindset and health goals, go for it! Especially, that you have an access to the fresh produce and seafood.

  6. Oh, before reading this article, I just know diet in general.
    You have classified it into Mediterranean and Paleo to make us understand more clearly and easy to apply in right way.
    Thanks for your sharing.

    • Hi,
      Thank you for your feedback.
      The purpose of this post is to compare two diets to understand the purpose of them and whether one or another will suit your current health goals.
      The purpose of the Paleo diet is to help your body heal by eliminating foods that cause inflammation (like grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar).
      The Mediterranean diet promotes the food balance and health.
      It is great to know the differences so you could make the right choice.

  7. Great article Anna! I’ve heard of the mediterranena diet previously but have decided to stick to paleo mainly for the anti inflammatory benefits due to poor gut health.
    I guess it all comes down to some basic principles no matter which diet you choose doesn’t it? No processed foods, no sugar and keep it as balanced as possible.

    • Hi Vivek,
      It is very true!
      All the diets have a lot in common and the main principles are no processed or refined foods, no sugar and keep it balanced.
      The Paleo and the Mediterranean diets are no different from that main principles.
      Most of us have inflammation of a different kind happening in our bodies due to the not the healthiest food choices. And for the most part, that choice is not because we do not want to make any changes but because the food industry is so deep into our pockets that they do not label their products for our best interest.
      Both diets are great and chich one to choose will depend on the health goals you have.

  8. Hi Anna,

    Great post! I love eating healthy and pretty much follow a plant based diet and try to eliminate meat where possible and dairy. We are fit and healthy and our diet would be closer to the Mediterranean diet than paleo. Paleo has a lot of meat.

    We also have lots of fresh juice and smoothies. getting hungry just thinking about them. thanks for a thought provoking post, Kev

    • Hi Kev,
      Thank you for your post!
      Indeed, the Paleo diet does not recommend the amount of meat to be consumed. It is up to you what amount you choose.
      The Paleo diet is all about the balance and filling up your plate with healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates (vegetables and fruits).
      Juicing is a great way to meet your daily requirement of macro- and micronutrients, especially when you are on a plant diet.

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