Mediterranean Diet Basics

The basics of the Mediterranean diet can be broken into 9 important areas of change for your health:

1. Vegetables - This one's pretty easy. It’s hard to eat too many vegetables...
2. Legumes - Making beans your choice for a starch...
3. Fruits and nuts - Fruit is the perfect snack...
4. Cereals - Whole grains are really good for you...
5. Fish - More fish, less meat...
6. Olive oil - This really means eating more monounsaturated fat...
7. Dairy products - The traditional Mediterranean diet doesn’t have dairy products as a major focus...
8. Meats - Less meat and lean meats...
9. Alcohol - There is good evidence that moderate use of alcohol is good for you...

Need more information? Read about the research!

Just Tell Me What to Eat!

The Delicious 6-Week Weight Loss Plan for the Real World

Just Tell Me What to Eat!

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP has counseled thousands of his patients on healthy, sustainable weight loss. Now he's compiled his best tips and recipes into a six-week plan for you to learn how to eat great food that just happens to be great for you.

Get the prescription for better health as well as healthy weight loss, including:

What to eat
How to cook it
When to eat it
What to eat at a restaurant
What to eat if you're in a hurry
and best of all....
Why eating great food is the best health decision you'll ever make.

Just $15.00 +s/h!


The Mediterranean Diet

No. 2 - Legumes

Peas in a PodAs with the wide variety of cabbages you can find in the market, there are lots of different legumes (some of which you probably didn't think were related to each other).

In botany the term legume has two meanings. Legume is a species of plant but the term also refers to any fruit that develops seeds lined up in a pod (most often the pod splits open down a seam on one side like “peas in a pod”). Legumes are also known as Pulses.

Legumes are great sources of protein and fiber. I have written on this in many columns and sidebars on the Dr. Gourmet site. Making beans your choice for a starch with dinner as with Black Bean Cakes or Sea Bass with White Beans. Minestrone or Split Pea Soup with a salad makes a great dinner. Fill your pantry with canned or dried beans like kidneys, garbanzos and black beans.

Edamame - SoybeansBeans

Azuki Beans
Black Beans (Turtle Beans, Mexican Black Beans, Spanish Black Beans)
Cranberry Bean
Fava Bean (Broad Bean, Butter Bean, Windsor Bean, English Bean)
Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas)
Great Northern Bean
Lima Beans
Navy Beans (Yankee Bean, Boston Bean, Boston Navy Bean)
Pinto Beans
Red Bean
Red Kidney Beans (Mexican Beans, Red Beans)
Soy Bean (Edamame, Soya Bean)
White Kidney Bean (Cannellini Bean, Fazolia Bean)


Brown Lentils
French Green Lentils
Pink Lentils (Red Lentils, Masoor Dal)
Yellow Lentils (Moong Dal)
Red Lentils
Black Lentils


English Peas
Black Eyed Peas



Snap Beans

Chinese Long Beans
French Green Beans (Haricot Verts)
Green Bean (String Bean)
Runner Bean (Italian Flat Bean)
Wax Beans

Edible Pods

Snow Peas (Chinese Pea, Chinese Snow Pea)
Sugar Snap Peas (Snap Peas)

Recipes containing legumes:

Autumn Pork Chops
Black Bean Cakes
Black Bean Hummus
Black Bean Soup
Black Eyed Pea Salad
Cannellini Bean Soup
Chick Pea Salad
One Skillet Chicken with Black Beans
Green Beans with Walnut Vinaigrette
Green Beans with Red Onion
Lentil and Black Bean Salad
Minted Peas
Red Beans and Rice
Sea Bass with White Beans and Tomato Vinaigrette
Split Pea Soup
Three Bean Salad
White Chili
Wild Rice and Black Beans

Research Articles - Legumes in The Mediterranean Diet

You can read more about the science of why eating legumes is so good for you in these articles:

More on Soy Protein:
Speaking of soy protein, a recent clinical trial in China seems to suggest that eating more vegetable protein (such as soy protein) can help reduce blood pressure.

A Mediterranean Diet Won't Make You Fat:
You've probably heard that a "Mediterranean Diet" will help you live longer. . . . Recently, though, there's been some concern that although a Mediterranean diet might be good for your heart, it appears to lead to weight gain and obesity.

What About Gout?
This was a recent question by a visitor to the site in response to a column about how great legumes are for you. The issue is that legumes can provoke a flare-up of painful arthritis in those who suffer with gout. This is the consequence of higher amounts of purine molecules found in beans, peas and peanuts.

Bean there, done that!
I have written recently about the positive effects that diet can have on different cancers. We know that people with a normal Body Mass Index have a lower risk of cancer. Studies have also shown a clear link with increased fruit and vegetable intake providing a decrease in the risk of some cancers.

What I (Un)Learned in Medical School
It was about 15 years ago, but as amazing as it may seem, I actually had a professor say, "I don't care about my diet, I'll just take Zocor or another cholesterol lowering medication and keep eating my thick, juicy steaks." This was in response to a Grand Rounds lecturer speaking about the importance of diet in preventing heart disease.

A roughage life...
We know that fiber can help prevent some cancers, reduce your cholesterol, help you avoid problems with heart disease and help diabetics control their blood sugar. Almost every week I read another positive study on how great high fiber foods are for you health. While there's no magical dietary cure eating foods that are higher in fiber is pretty close and is one of the easiest changes that you make in your diet.

Control Cholesterol Through Diet Alone?
Canadian researchers assessed the cholesterol levels of 55 men and women over the course of one year of a recommended low-fat diet designed to combine various foods known for their cholesterol-lowering effects.

Magnesium and irregular heart beats:
A number of my patients have trouble with irregular heart beats. It can be very common and is people call this many different things. Some feel they are having "skipped beats" or a "flip-flop" of the heart. Many will call these palpitations and it is best described as a feeling that the heart has jumped or beaten out of sequence.

Improve your Cholesterol Score with Soy:
I've written before about one of several nutritional studies on soy protein and its effect on LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and total cholesterol levels. A recent Canadian study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition theorized that isoflavones, a plant chemical with estrogen-like qualities, might be one of the significant factors in soy's association with reduced cholesterol levels.

Dieting and Osteoporosis:
It should be common knowledge by now that constant dieting and yo-yo dieting are poor concepts to live by. Importantly, a study by the USDA's agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently (April, 1999) showed that women who ate simply to avoid weight gain had an increased risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition of bone mass loss that eventually results in fractures.

Eating A Mediterranean Diet Reduces Your Risk Of Becoming Obese:
I have written extensively on how a Mediterranean style diet can help prevent disease. A group of researchers using information gathered in Spain about dietary patterns looked at how a diet that closely adheres to the Mediterranean patterns affects weight gain.

The Health of It All... Folic Acid Requirements
It is now well established that folic acid, also known as folate, is essential for production of blood cells and for developing fetuses.

The Health of It All... Legumes and Heart Disease
There is very good evidence that eating legumes lowers the risk for heart disease.