The Mediterranean Diet has been chosen again as the best diet in the world for seven years in a row. But I find that most people do not really understand what the Mediterranean diet is all about. I’ve listed below 10 misconceptions about the Mediterranean diet, along with the truth.

Misconception #1 – It’s Greek Food

While Greek cuisine is part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, there are many other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The Seven Countries Study, which is where the term Mediterranean diet comes from, specifically mentioned Italy and Greece. But it doesn’t stop there. The Mediterranean diet is also found in Morocco, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, the South of France, Spain, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Cyprus, and more. Each country has its own way of seasoning the foods, so eating the Mediterranean way can provide an infinite variety of flavors. It’s not just Greek Salads with stuffed grape leaves and feta cheese.

Misconception #2 – It’s Expensive

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Mediterranean diet is based on vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, olive oil, and only a little bit of meat. In the Mediterranean countries, many people grow their own vegetables and fruits, and may even raise their own livestock. Meat can be expensive, but it is only consumed in moderation and usually only a few times per month. If you grow your own herbs, which is very easy to do at home even if you don’t have land, and you shop for fruits and vegetables at your local farm markets, and buy your bread at the bakery, you will save a lot of money. When you shop at the supermarket, you will find the prices to be much higher. Meat is very expensive. Save money by reducing the amount of meat you eat. This is the diet of the common man, not royalty.

Misconception #3 – You Have To Drink Red Wine

While red wine has some health benefits, it’s not a requirement of the Mediterranean diet. Red wine contains resveratrol, which is a powerful antioxidant. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes, and also in blueberries, cranberries, cocoa, and peanuts. There are many ways to get the benefits of resveratrol in your diet with out drinking red wine.

Misconception #4 – You’ll Lose Weight Automatically

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy way of eating. But even too much of a good thing can be too much. The only way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories than you normally do. This can be achieved by eating less food, or burning off calories through exercise. You may lose weight simply by eating healthier foods, but real results will be achieved by practicing moderation. Please note I did not say starvation. The Mediterranean diet is not about skipping meals and starving ourselves into a small size. It’s about learning moderation.

Misconception #5 – It’s a Diet

The term “diet” comes from the Greek word “diaita” which means lifestyle. When we talk about the Mediterranean diet, we are referring to a well-rounded healthy lifestyle, not just a deficit of food. When we refer to the word diet in the United States, we usually mean a restrictive eating plan that lasts for a finite period of time. The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle. We’ll get more into this in #9.

Misconception #6 – It’s Low Carb

The Mediterranean diet is in no way a low-carb diet. There are different levels of quality when it comes to carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole grains. Low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets have been a fad for the past 15 years or so. They are not a healthy way of eating, and are difficult to practice for a long period of time. They were invented to help people with diabetes and the morbidly obese. They are not sustainable for most people, and they can cause health issues over time. They are hard on your kidneys, digestive tract, heart, and other areas of your body. The Mediterranean diet is the complete opposite.

Misconception #7 – You Have To Eat Whole Wheat Pasta

The Mediterranean diet recommends whole grains when it comes to bread and cereals over simple white breads and store-bought breakfast cereals. With that said, the people of Italy eat regular semolina pasta almost every day. The difference is in how it is served. It is usually a small starter course, not the main meal. It is also very often served with a simple sauce made of vegetables or fish. In the U.S. we usually serve pasta as a main course, covered in cheesy sauces with a side of meatballs or sausage. It’s all in the way you eat pasta. Moderation and preparation are key.

Misconception #8 – You Can’t Eat Meat

On a Mediterranean diet, it is recommended that you eat red meat sparingly. The portions should be small — only 3-4 ounces — and only consumed a few times a month. You can eat chicken and poultry more often, perhaps once a week. In Greece they eat lamb occasionally. Meat is usually eaten as a side dish or used as a floor enhancer. The bottom line is that you can eat meat, but in moderation. Think of your plate in a different way. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter of your plate with a whole grain or beans, and the other quarter of your plate with meat, fish, or fruit.

Misconception #9 – It’s Only About the Food

The Mediterranean diet is about so much more than the food. It is a well-rounded lifestyle that includes exercise, human connection, self-care, and fun. Exercise doesn’t have to be a formal session at a gym. It could be what I call lifestyle exercise — gardening, walking to the store, playing with your kids, dancing, sex. Some of the health benefits of a Mediterranean lifestyle come from human connection, spending quality time with your friends and family, and sharing meals with people you enjoy. It is a way of life that is less stressful. Have fun. Take care of your skin. Take pride in your appearance. Have a few laughs. Get human interaction on a daily basis. This all adds up to a healthy life.

Misconception #10 – It’s Hard

It’s not hard to follow a Mediterranean diet. You will have to get used to cooking your own food most of the time. But cooking is easy, and don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t. It’s just propaganda to get you to buy expensive prepackaged foods with lots of preservatives and additives. Give the Mediterranean diet a try. The foods are delicious and varied. Think of it as a culinary adventure. Make the effort. You’re worth it.

I hope I cleared up these popular misconceptions about the Mediterranean Diet, and that you try this healthy lifestyle for yourself.