The Mediterranean diet is a collective term for the dietary habits of nations along the Mediterranean Sea. It is a diet inspired by people’s eating habits around the Mediterranean Sea. However, the food habits differ among these regions significantly owing to various factors like culture, agriculture, geography Therefore, there is no particular standard Mediterranean diet. However, certain common features unite the concept of this diet plan.
A typical Mediterranean diet contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, it includes beans, legumes, nuts, whole grain foods and seeds. The usage of olive oil is a part of this staple diet. Additionally, people on the Mediterranean diet eat moderately fish, dairy, and poultry products. Their diet restricts refined flours, oils, processed and canned foods. Interestingly, fruits work as desserts. Thus added sugar is very limited in their diet.
The Mediterranean diet got popular in the 1960s as a diet plan owing to its health benefits. It is not a strict diet plan. It only focuses on the food you eat and how you eat. Moreover, it focuses on your food habits.
The Mediterranean diet is a low carb and gluten-free diet. In the case of a low carb diet variant, it includes fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and likewise. For a gluten-free diet, you may avoid certain food grains that contain gluten. It includes barley, wheat, and rye.
Why Choose a Mediterranean Diet for Diabetes?
According to many health experts, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diet plans. It consists of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, seafood, nuts, seeds and unsaturated fats. In addition, a study has noted that a Mediterranean-style diet may effectively prevent and cure diabetes and its risk factors. These include weight gain, obesity, heart diseases and stroke.
An unhealthy eating style is one of the causes of diabetes. Since the diet emphasises healthy eating, it prevents multiple disorders and improves overall health. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, poultry, vegetable oils and nuts are part of their regular diet. In addition, the diet also restricts unhealthy fat and added sugar, salt, processed and refined foods. All these contribute to diabetes in some or the other way.
Studies show that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of diabetes and heart diseases. It is also helpful in promoting weight loss, which plays a vital role in managing blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. Here are the components of the Mediterranean diet which helps regulate diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and more. Therefore, they are rich in high dietary fibre. As a result, digestion happens slowly, which slows down the rate of breakdown of sugar, thereby preventing blood sugar spikes. Thus it is capable of regulating blood glucose levels.
Moreover, dietary fibre keeps you satiated and full for longer, ultimately preventing overeating. As a result, your weight is under control. But, conversely, excess body weight initiates diabetes. Additionally, the fruits contain natural sugars like fructose, sucrose and glucose. Thus it does not harm you like refined sugar.
The Mediterranean diet includes heart-friendly unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. They have anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, it increases good cholesterol HDL levels and reduces unhealthy fats or LDL in the blood. Diabetes increases the risk of heart problems, and therefore adopting this diet is a good idea.
Accumulation of unhealthy fats results in deposits along the walls of blood vessels. Therefore, this results in the narrowing of blood vessels to cause blockage in blood flow. It can result in a clot, increased blood pressure and cardiac disorders. On the other hand, Omega 3 fatty acid food lowers blood pressure and the risk of cardiac disease. Seafood, poultry products, nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats. Seafood, legumes, seeds, and nuts are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.
A study suggests that antioxidants help reduce the risk of diabetes and related diseases. It also helps lower blood glucose levels. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidative stress on cells. Therefore, it induces free radical cell injury-causing multiple chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart diseases and blood pressure.
Moreover, antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties. In other words, it prevents swelling and inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants. For example, curcumin is a compound in turmeric with anti-inflammatory properties. A study states itcan lower blood glucose levels. In addition, it can increase insulin sensitivity and prevent other complications of diabetes..
Anthocyanin is another antioxidant present in coloured vegetables. A study states that it effectively regulates blood sugar. It enhances insulin sensitivity and improves glucose absorption in cells. Studies show that anthocyanins are effective in preventing the thickening of blood vessels. It is a complication of diabetes resulting in cardiac diseases.
People with type 2 diabetes may be at risk of vitamin deficiency. It may imbalance the glucose levels in the body. Vitamin C enhances insulin sensitivity and lowers blood glucose levels. Study shows Vitamin D deficiency increases the possibility of diabetes. In addition, vitamin imbalance causes fluctuation in sugar levels and increases the complications of diabetes.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may have lower blood levels of thiamin. Thiamin deficiency is more prevalent in diabetics. Thiamin is a Vitamin B compound that helps relieve pain in diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is the degeneration of nerves as a complication of diabetes. Nuts, whole grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, and likewise are rich in thiamin.
Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in people with long term medication for diabetes. It is an essential element in preventing nerve injury or neuropathy in diabetes. Fish, poultry, nuts are excellent sources of Vitamin B12.
Diabetic individuals have low Vitamin C levels. Vitamin C regulates the sorbitol in the blood, sugar alcohol. Consequently, abnormal levels may result in retinopathy and nephropathy (kidney damage). They are common complications of diabetes. Vitamin C also improves insulin sensitivity and helps people lower their blood glucose levels.
Delayed wound healing is another symptom of diabetes. Moreover, it also helps in wound healing and the repair of tissues. Bell peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, guava, kiwi, strawberries are rich in Vitamin C.
Mediterranean Diet: Food Options for Diabetes
A Mediterranean diet is composed mainly of homemade meals, which you can enjoy with your family. Following a rigid diet plan with off-limits foods doesn’t work long-term. It includes fruits, legumes, veggies, and nuts readily available in the market.
Fruits and Vegetables
Including plenty of fresh or frozen veggies in your diet helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Preferably, most vegetables and fruits have a low glycemic index. That means they do not spike the glucose levels on eating. Moreover, they contain natural sugars which don’t fluctuate your blood sugar level.
In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of dietary fibres, essential minerals and antioxidants. Go for berries, plums and apples, as they are higher in fibre. They help regulate your weight when obesity is a cause of diabetes. Dietary fibres make you feel full for a long time. Therefore, this prevents you from overeating and regulating your body weight.
Moreover, most of them contain magnesium, essential in regulating blood sugar levels. Green leafy vegetables, peppers, spinach, broccoli and beans are excellent sources of magnesium.
Healthy whole grain options are quinoa, muesli, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, and bread. However, whole grains have low carbohydrates apart from dense fibres and nutrients. Low carbohydrates help regulate blood sugar.
Beans and lentils have high fibre and antioxidants. They regulate glucose levels. Moreover, they reduce the risk of heart disease. It is a rich source of magnesium like vegetables. It strengthens your immunity regulates heart rate and digestion.
Additionally, it helps absorb nutrients. However, this vital nutrient is low in diabetes patients. Low magnesium comes with insulin resistance. Garbanzo, kidney beans, and lentils are rich sources of magnesium.
Fish is an excellent source of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. They help in controlling the cholesterol levels in your body. Diabetes worsens cardiac diseases. High cholesterol level is a major cause of various cardiac disorders. Salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel are rich sources of omega -3 fatty acids.
Nuts are high in dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium, manganese, antioxidants, etc. They contain healthy fats. They also have a high content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Study shows that nuts have properties to lower blood glucose. Almonds, cashew, peanuts, walnuts are perfect for a diabetic meal plan. You should include unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil to improve diabetes symptoms.
Mediterranean Diet for Diabetes: A Sample Meal Plan
Keeping in mind the foods mentioned above, you can create a meal plan that suits you. The meal plan below is just a reference meal plan that focuses on fewer calories to help lose weight while regulating blood sugar using a Mediterranean diet.
Day 1– Meal Plan
Breakfast (300 calories)
Nonfat Berries Greek Yoghurt: 1 cupRaspberries: ⅓ cupSteel Cut Oats: 1 bowl
Mid Meal Snack (131 calories)
Pear: 1 medium sizedGreen Tea with Lemon- 1 cup
Lunch (293 calories)
Salmon-stuffed Avocados: 1 servingWhole Wheat Bread- 1 slice
Evening Snacks (79 calories)
Blackberries: ⅔ cupUnsalted Almonds and Walnuts: 1 serving
Dinner (387 calories)
Stir-fried Mushrooms: 1 servingWhole Wheat Bread: 1 SliceMixed greens with ¼ avocado: 2 cupsOlive Lettuce Salad: 1 serving
Calories: 1500 kcalProtein: 63gCarbohydrate: 117gFibre: 30gTotal fat: 59gSodium: 1218mg
Day 2 – Meal Plan
Breakfast (281 calories)
Date & Pine Nut Overnight Oatmeal: 1 serving
Mid Meal Snacks (61 calories)
Lunch (381 calories)
Fresh Tomato, Lentils and Spinach Salad: 1 serving
Evening Snacks (61 calories)
Medium Apple: 1
Dinner (383 calories)
Baked Salmon with Spring onions, baby carrots and broccoli: 1 servingRoasted Fresh Green Veggies: 1 serving
Calories: 1200 kcalProtein: 55gCarbohydrate: 146gFibre: 31gTotal fat: 51gSodium: 1058mg
Day 3 – Meal Plan
Breakfast (233 calories)
Apple Cinnamon Chia Pudding: 1 serving
Mid Meal Snacks (91 calories)
Orange: 1 medium sized
Lunch (448 calories)
Grilled Chicken with Garlic Sauce: 1 serving
Evening Snack (88 calories)
Sliced Cucumber: ⅔ Hummus: 3 tbsp
Dinner (351 calories)
Vegetarian Butternut with Stir-fried Black Beans: 1 servingMixed Green Veggies: 2 cupsOlive Orange Vinaigrette: 1/2 cup
Calories: 1300 kcalProtein: 60gCarbohydrate: 145gFibre: 38gTotal fat: 46gSodium: 1506mg
Day 4 – Meal Plan
Breakfast (233 calories)
Avocado Spinach Smoothie Bowl: 1 serving
Mid Morning Snack (42 calories)
Raspberries: ⅔ cup
Lunch (448 calories)
Smoked Tuna: 1 serving
Evening Snack (41 calories)
Blackberries: ⅔ cup
Dinner (432 calories)
Chicken, Sprouts and Mushroom Salad: 1 serving
Calories: 1400 kcalProtein: 70gCarbohydrate: 100gFibre: 30gTotal Fat: 51gSodium: 1291mg
Day 5 – Meal Plan
Breakfast (233 calories)
Oatmeal with Milk: 1 serving
Mid-Morning Snack (84 calories)
Pear: 1 small
Lunch (381 calories)
Stir-Fried Green Veggies with Mint Sauce: 1 serving
Evening Snack (59 calories)
Peach: 1 medium
Dinner (448 calories)
Roasted Salmon: 1 servingMultigrain Bread- 1 sliceEgg Scrambled- 2 eggs
Calories: 1405 kcalProtein: 50gCarbohydrate: 146gFibre: 35gTotal fat: 46gSodium: 946mg
Day 6 – Meal Plan
Breakfast (294 calories)
Nonfat Plain Greek Yoghurt: 1 servingBlueberries: ¼ cupMaple Granola: 1 serving
Mid Morning Snack (30 calories)
Lunch (381 calories)
Vegan Superfood Buddha Bowls: 1 serving
Evening Snack (35 calories)
Dinner (479 calories)
Garlic Shrimp and Asparagus Kebabs: 1 servingQuinoa Avocado Salad: 1 serving
Calories: 1219 kcalProtein: 58gCarbohydrate: 136gFibre: 33gTotal fat: 56gSodium: 813 mg
Day 7 – Meal Plan
Breakfast (281 calories)
Orange Oats Smoothie: 1 serving
Mid Meal Snack (32 calories)
Raspberries: ½ cup
Lunch (381 calories)
Green Salad with Grilled Chicken: 1 serving
Evening Snack (31 calories)
Blackberries: ½ cup
Dinner (499 calories)
Pan-Fried Chicken and Vegetables with Garlic Sauce: 1 serving
Calories: 1224 kcalProtein: 58gCarbohydrate: 135gFibre: 31gTotal fat: 55gSodium: 1004mg
The Mediterranean diet is a good option for overall health. It would help if you incorporated it in a diabetic meal plan due to its nutritional benefits. It helps control diabetes as this diet comprises a lot of fibre-rich foods and low glycemic index foods. They prevent sudden blood sugar spikes. It imparts multiple benefits to Diabetic patients. It includes regulating your glucose levels and preventing the complications of diabetes.
The diet plan emphasises fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, seafood, nuts, seeds and unsaturated fats. It also limits the consumption of sweets, refined grains, sugars and red meat. Moreover, this diet can prevent various cardiovascular diseases as it helps control diabetes, body weight and high blood pressure. But, on the other hand, all three factors actively increase cardiac disease risk factors. However, before introducing any diet, discuss it with your doctor and nutritionist. It helps prevent unforeseeable complications and adverse effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What drink lowers blood sugar?
A. Plain lemon water or coconut water. They are high in multiple essential elements, vitamins and antioxidants. They help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate glucose levels.
Q. Is a Mediterranean diet heart healthy?
A. Yes, the Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy as it contains lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, and much more. They are a rich source of dietary fibres, healthy fats and antioxidants. As a result, they help prevent and control cholesterol levels. In addition, it helps control diabetes, high blood pressure and various cardiovascular diseases.
Q. Can a Mediterranean diet be keto?
A. Yes, the Mediterranean diet can be keto. It can consist of fresh, unprocessed seafood, low-carb veggies, olive oil and healthy fats.
Q. Can a Mediterranean diet be gluten-free?
A. Yes, the Mediterranean diet can be made gluten-free by substituting barley, wheat, and rye with other gluten-free alternatives.
Q. Does the Mediterranean diet help lose weight?
A. Yes, a Mediterranean diet can help lose weight because it consists of loads of fruits and veggies that contain a lot of fibre. Fibre promotes a feeling of fullness and thus helps in losing weight.
Q. Can blood sugar increase due to stress?
A. Yes, stress releases certain hormones that increase your blood sugar levels. Moreover, stress constricts blood vessels, increasing blood pressure.
Q. Does sleep affect blood sugar?
A. Blood sugar levels rise while sleeping. For healthy adults, insulin can curb this surge, but for diabetes patients, insulin might not be able to do this task.
Q. Do blood sugar levels rise after eating?
A. It is normal to have a temporary spike in blood sugar level after eating, mainly carbohydrates. It gets lowered after insulin secretion.