The Mediterranean diet is a modern nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of Greece, Spain and Southern Italy. The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.

History
Although it was first publicized in 1945 by the American scientist Ancel Keys stationed in Pioppi, Italy, the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data showing that Mediterranean diet is healthy, first originated from the Seven Countries Study.
Portugal was included in Keys observations and studies, and the scientist found in the country the diet in its more pure form, however Salazar convinced the scientist to remove references of the country from his conclusions, as the ruler did not wanted Portugal’s name associated with the “diet of the poor”.

Health effects
The Mediterranean diet often is cited as beneficial for being low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber. One of the main explanations is thought to be the health effects of olive oil included in the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is high in salt content. Foods such as olives, salt-cured cheeses, anchovies, capers, and salted fish roe all contain high levels of salt.

The inclusion of red wine is considered a factor contributing to health as it contains flavonoids with powerful antioxidant properties.

Dietary factors are only part of the reason for the health benefits enjoyed by certain Mediterranean cultures. A healthy lifestyle (notably a physically active lifestyle or labour) is also beneficial. Environment may also be involved. However, on the population level, i.e. for the population of a whole country or a region, the influence of genetics is rather minimal, because it was shown that the slowly changing habits of Mediterranean populations, from a healthy active lifestyle and Mediterranean diet to a not so healthy, less physically active lifestyle and a diet influenced by the Western pattern diet, significantly increases risk of heart disease. There is an inverse association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the incidence of fatal and non fatal heart disease in initially healthy middle aged adults in the Mediterranean region.

A 2011 systematic review found that a Mediterranean diet appeared to be more effective than a low-fat diet in bringing about long-term changes to cardiovascular risk factors, such as lowering cholesterol level and blood pressure.

A 10-year study found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet and healthful lifestyle was associated with more than a 50% lowering of early death rates. A 5-year study of 7,447 people reported that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease in people at high risk by “about 30 percent” when compared with individuals on just a low fat diet.