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Health benefits of Mediterranean diet



Tested during thousands of years Mediterranean food has been acclaimed internationally, not only for its variety (fish, rice, beans, meat, olive oil) but also for the benefits it reports to your health.

Mediterranean diet has been associated in several studies with a significant amelioration of multiple risk factors, including among some of them a better cardiovascular risk profile, reduced oxidative stress and modulation of inflammation [12].

On this article, we would like to mention some of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and on which scientific evidence they are based upon. Let's try to first explain what is the Mediterranean diet. Image: See credits below [13].



First of all and being this site a herb-oriented website, we would mention which herbs are used in Mediterranean food most often. The most commonly used herbs in Mediterranean food are:

among many others, but we will concentrate on those ones because they are present in almost every Mediterranean meal and part of many Mediterranean diet recipes. Below you can see a picture of one of the Mediterranean diet recipes for excellence, the Paella.

Mediterranean diet can be identified in high consumption of fruit and vegetables, olive oil as the principal source of fat, low consumption of meat and dairy products and moderate consumption of wine [12].


GARLIC (Allium sativum)

Garlic has, among all the Mediterranean herbs mentioned in this article, the strongest antimicrobial properties, but this is not the only one, garlic has proven its efficiency in the treatment of the paediatric tumour neuroblastoma [7].


ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is one of my preferred culinary herbs. It doesn't only add a very good taste to meals and dishes prepared with it but it also provides us with a very anti-cancer ingredient, Carnosol. Carnosol is one of the phenolic extracts present in Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), able to inhibit tumour formation [1][2].

As reported in many scientific articles and literature, phenolic compounds have been studied and used as very useful antitumour agents. They have an inhibitory effect on cancer cells invasion and are able to prevent on a certain degree metastasis [2].

In another scientific study, the intake of herbs used in the Mediterranean diet (rosemary, sage, parsley...etc.) was proven to have an inverse relationship with the occurrence of lung cancer, another prove Mediterranean diet is healthy [1], not being this one the only reported benefit because other trials and tests done on rosemary have proven that rosemary can help to inhibit human colon cancer cell growth.


PARSLEY (Petroselinum hortense)

Parsley is well known as a Mediterranean food condiment, and it also exerts many beneficial properties, however if we compare its properties with those of other Mediterranean herbs as Sage, Parsley is one of the lowest in antioxidant capacity, however, it is rich in vitamin A.

Vitamin A is very important, as it helps to increase our capabilities to learn and memorize, playing a very important role against chronic inflammatory conditions [12], however, an excess of vitamin A can cause hair loss.


SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is also one of the herbs that can help to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells [4].


OREGANO (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano is also very much used in many culinary preparations of the Mediterranean diet, among others some cooked rice as the one shown in the picture, called paella and typical from a the Spanish region of Valencia, uses sometimes oregano as a condiment.

This herb has many properties and benefits, but it has also certain effects on the production of nitric oxide NO, inhibiting the production of Nitric Oxide in some case studies [6].

Nitric oxide plays a very important role in the regulation of blood flow in the human body and very well known by bodybuilders and also important in the development of regular sexual function, therefore, it's inhibition won't be very helpful to those two groups.

Anyway, Oregano also contains carnosol, an anticancer and anti-inflammatory agent, and apigenin, a well-known flavonoid from the flavonol type, that together with Luteolin showed to be effective on two different cancer cell lines, including human chronic myelogenous erythroleukaemia (K562) and bladder carcinoma (RT112).

The results of one of this study showed that the cytotoxic effects of flavones (apigenin and luteolin) on the already mentioned cancer cell lines suggested that flavones apigenin and luteolin could be considered as potential chemotherapeutic agents [9], [10].



Several have been the studies done on the potential preventive role of the Mediterranean diet and their influence and effects in the development of cardiovascular disease and other ailments as cancer. In a study performed in Italy between 1993 to 1996 in a total of 342 lung cancer patients.

Briefly, the study describes how a link between certain Mediterranean diet food can be made. In the study the lung cancer patients filled a questionnaire and it seems that out of the content of the questionnaire and the results of that one some Mediterranean diet products as olive oil and sage were found statistically significant on their protective role against lung cancer.

It could be concluded that some Mediterranean food present in the Mediterranean diet could be associated with a decreased incidence of lung cancer cases.

Last but not least, herbs such as:

  • Raphanus raphanistrum (wild radish),
  • Anchusa azure (bugloss),
  • Daucus carota (wild carrot),
  • Sonchus oleraceus (sowthistle),
  • Papaver rhoeas (corn poppy),
  • Malva sylvestris (blue mallow)
  • Foeniculum vulgare (fennel),
  • Cichorium intybus (chicory) and
  • Salicornia europaea (jointed glasswort),

are also found in Mediterranean countries and are also known to exert a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties that need to be mentioned, they provide our diets of a very important added value.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more info.



[1] Carnosol: A promising anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agent. Johnson JJ. University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacy Practice, USA; University of Illinois at Chicago Cancer Center, Carcinogenesis & Chemoprevention Research Program, USA.
[2] Singletary, K., MacDonald, C., Wallig, M.. Inhibition by rosemary and carnosol of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced rat mammary tumorigenesis and in vivo DMBA-DNA adduct formation. Cancer Lett 104 43-48 (1996). Chan, M.M., Ho, C.T., Huang, H.I.. Effects of three dietary phytochemicals from tea, rosemary, and turmeric on inflammation-induced nitrite production.. Cancer Lett 96 23-29 (1995).
[3] Chemopreventive effects of dietary phytochemicals against cancer invasion and metastasis: Phenolic acids, monophenol, polyphenol, and their derivatives. Weng CJ, Yen GC. Graduate Institute of Applied Science of Living, Tainan University of Technology, 529 Zhongzheng Rd., Yongkang District, Tainan City 71002, Taiwan.
[4] Anti-tumorigenic activity of five culinary and medicinal herbs grown under greenhouse conditions and their combination effects. Yi W, Wetzstein HY. Department of Horticulture, 1111 Miller Plant Science Building, The University of Georgia, Athens
[5] Antioxidant activities, total phenolics and HPLC analyses of the phenolic compounds of extracts from common Mediterranean plants. Rababah TM, Ereifej KI, Esoh RB, Al-u'datt MH, Alrababah MA, Yang W. Faculty of Agriculture, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid 22110, Jordan.
[6] Chemical composition and protective effect of oregano (Origanum heracleoticum L.) ethanolic extract on oxidative damage and on inhibition of NO in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages. Conforti F, Marrelli M, Menichini F, Tundis R, Statti GA, Solimene U, Menichini F. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Calabria, Italy.
[7] Molecular Mechanisms of Anti-cancer Action of Garlic Compounds in Neuroblastoma. Karmakar S, Choudhury SR, Banik NL, Ray SK. Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
[8] The protective effect of the Mediterranean diet on lung cancer. Fortes C, Forastiere F, Farchi S, Mallone S, Trequattrinni T, Anatra F, Schmid G, Perucci CA. Clinical Epidemiology Department, Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata, IDI-IRCCSS, Rome, Italy.
[9] Flavonoids in tropical citrus species. Roowi S, Crozier A. Plant Products and Human Nutrition Group, Graham Kerr Building, School of Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, United Kingdom.
[10] Anticancer properties of flavonoids: roles in various stages of carcinogenesis. Clere N, Faure S, Martinez MC, Andriantsitohaina R. INSERM UMR U694, Université d'Angers, Angers, France.
[11] Radical scavenging and iron-chelating activities of some greens used as traditional dishes in Mediterranean diet. El SN, Karakaya S. Ege University, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Food Engineering, Izmir, Turkey.
[12] Mediterranean Diet Effect: an Italian picture. Azzini E, Polito A, Fumagalli A, Intorre F, Venneria E, Durazzo A, Zaccaria M, Ciarapica D, Foddai MS, Mauro B, Raguzzini A, Palomba L, Maiani G. National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, Via Ardeatina 546, 00178 Rome, Italy.
[13] Pixibay image under Public Domain CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) License.