Medically reviewed on April 23, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Numerous national health organizations—like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—recognize the potential benefits of a Mediterranean diet for diabetics.  Now, it’s important to note that the Mediterranean diet is more of a general framework for eating habits rather than a strict nutritional regimen. And it’s not a diet specifically designed for weight loss, diabetes management, illness prevention, or any other medical benchmark.
That said, there is emerging evidence to suggest that a Mediterranean diet can help people with diabetes manage their weight and sugar intake. 
So, how could the Mediterranean diet fit into your lifestyle?
In this guide, all you need to know about the Mediterranean diet for diabetics—how it works, which foods you should include in your eating plan, and more are covered.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t based on any official dietetic recommendations. Instead, it’s a loose framework for eating that closely mimics the dietary choices of Mediterranean residents in the mid-20th century. 
There are numerous countries in the Mediterranean region with distinct cultures and palates, but the Mediterranean diet mostly focuses on eating habits in the regions of: 
Why the emphasis on these specific places, and why hone in on the mid-to-late 1900s? At that time, people living in these areas experienced a relatively low rate of chronic disease and a higher-than-average life expectancy—even though they had less access to healthcare than their American counterparts. 
Nearly 30 years ago, the Harvard University School of Public Health, Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust, and the European Office of the World Health Organization released their Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: a loose visual guide of the eating framework. 
Here’s a breakdown of the pyramid from the base to the top: 
While research is still ongoing, current data suggest that a Mediterranean diet for diabetics could support: 
Let’s dig deeper into the Mediterranean diet—the recommended foods and the potential benefits of these foods for people living with diabetes.
Plant-based foods are a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet.  Experts suggest that people following this framework should plan their meals around one or more of the following: 
Each of these foods offers potential health benefits, some of which you might already know. Let’s take a closer look at:
Instead of butter and other types of oils, olive oil is the primary fat source recommended in the Mediterranean diet.
This is partially due to historical context: since olives were so widely grown in Greece, Crete, and Southern Italy, people living in these areas have been using olive oil (for culinary and other purposes) for more than 4,000 years. 
In terms of health benefits, research on olive oil is still ongoing. But current evidence supports a variety of possible advantages to using extra virgin olive oil in cooking: it’s low in saturated fat, may protect blood lipids from oxidation, and could help prevent coronary heart diseases (CHDs). 
The Mediterranean diet framework generally calls for moderate intake of cheese, Greek yogurt or other types of yogurt, eggs, and other dairy products. 
Since this diet isn’t based on any formal guidelines from dieticians, “moderate intake” can look a little different for each person. You might choose to:
Perhaps the most important benefit of including dairy in your diet is support for healthy bones: dairy contains calcium, potassium, Vitamin D, and protein. 
Fish and poultry are the Mediterranean diet’s primary protein sources, and Harvard’s food pyramid generally recommends eating more fish than poultry. 
Fish is generally recognized as a highly nutritious food that can also support heart health and provide a healthy source of iron and omega-3 fatty acids.  But experts recommend that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid fish species that are high in mercury, like: 
If you’re ever looking to mix up your Mediterranean diet, consider poultry sources other than chicken, like:
While it’s not explicitly included in Harvard’s pyramid, Mediterranean diet advocates generally recommend drinking red wine in moderation as an alcohol source. 
It’s important to note that alcohol isn’t right for everyone: if you rarely drink, consider asking your healthcare provider whether or not alcohol will interfere with any of your prescription medications.
That said, emerging evidence suggests that red wine might offer health benefits when consumed in moderation: 
At the top of the Harvard Mediterranean diet pyramid are red meat (beef and pork) and sugary desserts.  Instead of sweets (like ice cream, baked goods, or candy), advocates for the Mediterranean diet recommend sweet alternatives like:
Instead of red meat, Mediterranean diet devotees typically choose fish, poultry, and eggs as primary protein sources. But, remember that the Mediterranean diet is a loose framework; enjoying these foods in moderation (one serving per week or less) isn’t against the rules.
For people living with diabetes, a Mediterranean-style diet could help them reap some of the rewards of a balanced diet, generally low in fat and sugar. But is this diet right for you?
Before you make any major dietary changes, we recommend talking to your healthcare provider. They can help you create a customized eating framework that meets your dietary needs and accommodates any ongoing health issues.
Since the Mediterranean diet isn’t a strict regimen, like stipulating calorie counts or complete elimination of any foods, testing it out is unlikely to produce negative health results.
A Mediterranean diet for diabetics might help manage blood glucose and support other health outcomes while living with chronic health challenges. Remember to speak to a healthcare provider (ideally a Registered Dietician) before making any major changes to your current nutrition plan.
If you’re looking for a personalized diet plan to help you achieve your health goals and balance your blood glucose levels, Everlywell is here to help. Our community is over one million strong, and we’re passionate about connecting people with licensed providers and expanding access to quality medical care. Our online weight management offering can help you connect with licensed clinicians to support your journey to health and wellness.
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