The 10 Best Mediterranean Diet Cookbooks
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in March of 2018. The Mediterranean diet is arguably the most delicious and healthiest out there. Full of good fats, earthy spices, fresh vegetables, and lean proteins, it's a great way to lose weight, improve your heart health, and, possibly, even live longer, without depriving yourself of flavor. These cookbooks will help get you started, whether you're an avid chef or a complete beginner. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 02, 2019:
Few cooking styles manage to integrate health, flavor, and cost so seamlessly as the Mediterranean style. At the core philosophy of this great culinary tradition is an emphasis on simplicity—something that seems to stand in diametrical opposition to the underlying spirit of our times. The reason Mediterranean cooks can get away with such simplicity is that they are able to conjure deep, rich flavors that are due, in large part, to the freshness of their ingredients. By using fresh ingredients, not only do you taste the vibrance of their flavors, but as an unintended byproduct, you begin consuming healthier, more natural foods. While the choices on our list range from books written by famous chefs (such as #4, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, and #5, Live to Eat), to those primarily focused on weight loss (such as #6, The 28-Day Kickstart Plan, written by a dietitian), any of the books you choose here will largely eschew highly processed products in favor of real, whole foods that'll show you how very easy it can be to make something marvelous in the kitchen from from very little. While our #1 and #2 pick are truly must-haves for the aspiring chef, #3, Instant Pot Recipes, offers a compromise to the busiest amongst us who still want to nourish themselves with home-cooked food.
A Brief History Of The Mediterranean Diet
Dr. Keys' investigations, way back in the 1950s and 60s, were based on his observation that those in some poorer villages showed better health than those in richer areas.
The Mediterranean diet has received its fair share of attention in today's overstuffed diet market, although oddly enough, the concept of a "Mediterranean diet" is not as cut-and-dried as many think. While we tend to see the Mediterranean as a unified region, there are over 20 countries that belong to this geographical area, and eating habits vary greatly from one to the other. But it was the people of Crete and Italy who inspired Dr. Ancel Keys, the researcher who put this diet on the map, so we now largely associate Greek and Italian fare with the "Med diet."
Dr. Keys' investigations, way back in the 1950s and 60s, were based on his observation that those in some poorer villages showed better health than those in richer areas. To learn why, he conducted a landmark epidemiological study of worldwide diets, including those from Serbia, Finland, Italy, Greece, and the United States. He found that populations eating high amounts of saturated fat had more heart disease, while those relying on unsaturated fat had less (like the Mediterranean region where olive oil is a staple). In time, other researchers took up his work and agreed that the Mediterranean way of eating is good for the heart.
Today, the Med diet is more of a misnomer than ever, as the influence of Western foods, including fast food chains, have begun to change diets around the world. As sugary drinks and binge watching become the norm, some of the old traditions have begun to fade away, and diabetes and heart disease have become more prevalent. Fortunately, the old ways of fresh produce and relaxed meals live on in our ideas about the Mediterranean diet, even if it is more construct and less reality.
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
One way you can jump into this healthful style of eating is by learning about the Mediterranean diet food pyramid, created in 1993 by Oldways along with the WHO and the Harvard School of Public Health. This nutritional diagram makes choices easer, as it shows you which foods should make up the bulk of your diet and which you should choose sparingly.
Moving up the pyramid, you'll come to the fish and seafood layer.
At the base, you'll find the go-to foods: legumes, nuts, grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. Each meal you eat should be based around these. When it comes to grains, choose whole over refined; for example, opt for brown rice instead of white, quinoa instead of regular noodles. You'll get the greatest amount of fiber and vitamins that way.
Moving up the pyramid, you'll come to the fish and seafood layer. You can consume foods from this group often, which means two or more times per week. Above this, or sometimes included depending on the source, you'll find the poultry and dairy group. These are fine to eat throughout the week, but only in moderate portions and the leanest versions possible. So, choose low-fat cheese and white meat, and avoid eating large numbers of eggs and fatty cheeses.
Perched at the top is the meat and sweets group. Meat, here, means red meat and pork, which should be consumed only occasionally, usually a few times per month. Sweets, too, should be generally avoided, so skip processed foods with added sugar and have dessert perhaps once a week.
And although they aren't inside the pyramid, beverages are also important. Water should be your main choice; if you find plain water boring, you might add a lemon or choose sparkling, instead. Wine is also recommended in moderation (no more than a glass per day) as studies suggest compounds found in red wine are beneficial to the heart.
Four Mediterranean Diet Myths
You've probably heard a lot about the Mediterranean diet by now, which means some of what you heard may not be true. Here, we'd like to dispel a few common myths so you can start your journey with confidence.
Finally, you may hear that on the Mediterranean diet, portion control doesn't matter.
First, it's sometimes claimed that this eating plan is expensive. If you consume only exotic, out-of-season produce and drink only the finest wine, maybe. But if you substitute poultry for meat, buy whole grains, and cut out junk food, you may find that you save a few bucks. Of course, fruits and veggies can still be expensive, but according to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, the healthiest diets cost only $1.50 more per day than unhealthy ones. For most, the health benefits outweigh this small amount.
Then there's the idea that it's too hard to follow such a diet, especially if you're busy. Actually, this is one eating plan that lets you focus on simplicity, since a meal can be as uncomplicated as a salad with added beans and/or grains. Baked dishes are popular, as well, letting your oven do most of the work. Of course, if you have the time, there are plenty of complex, show-stopping meals you can prepare, but most good Mediterranean diet cookbooks have plenty of options for busy people.
Another common myth is that you must be a good cook to eat the Mediterranean way. As noted above, many dishes are simple and easy; if you can chop, mix, and add spices, you'll have a delicious meal in no time. Plus, you probably won't need to buy any crazy gadgets, because you can use kitchen staples: cutting board, knife, baking dish, etc.
Finally, you may hear that on the Mediterranean diet, portion control doesn't matter. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to weight loss, it does. You can't expect to eat an unlimited amount and lose weight, because ultimately, weight largely comes down to calories eaten versus calories burned. But, because you'll be eating nutritionally dense foods that aren't laden with fat and sugar, you'll probably find that you feel full longer and have fewer cravings that lead to overeating.