The wide world of diet trends is full of limitations and restrictions, and that’s likely why the Mediterranean diet, with its mindset of moderation and simplicity, has become so popular. Consistently ranked as a top diet for health and beyond, the adaptable eating style prioritizes whole foods, healthy fats, and lots of colorful produce.
That said, if you only focus on eating Mediterranean diet macros, you’ll miss out on many of the health-supporting habits of people who live in this region.
The immense popularity of this eating style originated with a study that became known as the Seven Countries Study. Beginning in the 1950s, this study observed how diet affects heart disease risk in—you guessed it—seven countries: the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, and Japan. While they found the risk was lowest in Italy and Greece—the Mediterranean countries—the researchers could only partially attribute the health benefits to diet: After all, while nutrition is crucial, health is more than just what we eat.
The work of Dan Buettner, establishing what he’s termed “Blue Zones”—those areas of the world where people live the longest and the healthiest—is further evidence that it’s important to take a holistic view of the lifestyles in these regions. Of the five areas Buettner noted as hot spots of longevity, two rest among the Mediterranean. His work has also highlighted common longevity-promoting habits of people across the Blue Zones—ones that aren’t restricted to dietary choices but expand into lifestyle.
So whether you’re already an avid follower of a Mediterranean diet or you’re simply looking for a few ways to support your health this holiday season, consider some key components of the Mediterranean diet—or Mediterranean lifestyle, if you will—that extend outside the kitchen: