The Mediterranean Diet refers to the dietary patterns found in several areas of the Mediterranean region— specifically, Crete (a Greek island), other areas of Greece, and southern Italy—in the early 1960s. Researchers were drawn to these areas because the people living there had very low rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, and a very long life expectancy. For example, the natives of Greece had a rate of heart disease that was 90 percent lower than that of Americans at that time.
Researchers found that, compared with the diets of affluent Americans, the diet in Crete was dramatically lower in foods from animal sources, such as meats, eggs, and dairy products, and higher in fat (mostly from olive oil and olives) and inexpensive
Because their diet was plant-based with few processed foods, their intake of heart unhealthy trans fats was negligible. Research continues to support the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet and its association with greater longevity.