We can trace back the Mediterranean diet to the Middle Ages when people in countries Italy and Greece consumed mostly bread, oil, seafood, vegetables, and a little meat. This diet has been universally accepted and even considered a way of life.
Ancel Keys, an American scientist, hypothesized that the Mediterranean diet provides several health benefits – and many studies have proven this too. Such benefits include a reduced risk of heart disease, high blood sugar, and excess body fat – all of which describe metabolic syndrome (1)
You can learn more about the Seven Countries Study that was started by Keys.
The ketogenic or keto diet, on the other hand, is a diet that limits carbohydrates while keeping fat high and protein moderate. That means one cannot eat bread that is typically high in carbs. When it comes to veggies, one should limit themselves to leafy greens and those that grow above the ground. Meat and seafood are allowed and encouraged as nourishing sources of fat and protein.
Both diets can support and improve your health in many ways. What’s also interesting is that you can combine them to reap the maximum benefits.
What is the Mediterranean Keto Diet?
The Mediterranean Keto diet is a way of eating that allows only low-carb foods from a traditional Mediterranean diet cuisine.
If we compare both diets in terms of their macronutrients, notice that the Mediterranean diet gets most of its calories (about 60%) from carbohydrates like grains, starches, and fruits. Fat is moderate and protein is low.
Therefore, on Mediterranean keto, you need to modify these macros to fit a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-carb keto lifestyle.
By restricting carbohydrates, you will be able to enter nutritional ketosis. This physiologic state can increase your body’s fat-burning potential, insulin sensitivity, mental focus, and control seizures, among other benefits.
Here are the basic rules when following a Mediterranean keto diet:
Avoid starchy vegetables.
Green leafy vegetables and those that grow above the ground only. Examples of above-ground options are asparagus, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and cruciferous vegetables. Avoid starchy vegetables.
When it comes to fruits, you can eat avocados, melon (in small amounts), and berries.
Eat a lot of fat.
Sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats include olives, avocado oil, fish, seafood, and poultry. Eat fatty cuts of poultry such as the skin and wings.
You are also encouraged to eat low-carb nuts such as pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds, and brazil nuts. Low-carb seeds are also allowed. Go for pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds.
Dairy is allowed in moderate amounts. Popular options include goat cheese, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, and Greek yogurt.
Main protein sources should consist of fish, seafood, and poultry.
These protein sources also contain heart-healthy fats. Examples include sardines, salmon, mackerel, wild-caught tuna, swordfish, bass, oysters, mussels, clams, crab, eggs, and chicken. Red meat is to be eaten only occasionally.
Additional Tip: Whether you’re on Mediterranean, Keto, or Mediterranean Keto, do not consume refined oils and foods with added sugars. Having said that, it’s best to avoid processed foods.
Mediterranean Keto Diet Macros
Your macronutrient targets should follow those of the standard keto diet. They are:
- Low-carb: 5% to 10% of your daily calories (only 20-50 grams of carbs)
- High-fat: 55% to 60% of your daily calories
- Moderate-protein: 30% to 35% of your daily calories
Again, take note that these macros are different from a typical Mediterranean diet that is high-carb in nature.
Mediterranean Keto vs. Standard Keto
For a start, both Mediterranean keto and standard keto are not just diets – they’re lifestyles. They’re both healthy as they encourage eating whole, unprocessed foods and avoiding added sugars in your diet.
Here’s the main difference:
While a standard keto diet allows you to eat any food as long as it’s low-carb, Mediterranean keto sticks only with Mediterranean foods that are low-carb. And as you may already know, a lot of traditional Mediterranean options aren’t, such as potatoes, breads, and whole grains.
Also, you should get the majority of your protein from fish, seafood, eggs, and poultry. Whereas on keto, you can get your protein from other animal sources like beef, pork, and venison.
Benefits of Mediterranean Keto
Combining Mediterranean and keto allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds. This is especially useful for those who truly believe in the benefits of going Mediterranean but want to have better blood glucose control and burn fat faster.
1. Significant weight loss
The Nutrition Journal published a study in which participants followed a “Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet”. This included olive oil as their source of fat, green vegetables and salads as their source of carbs, and fish as their source of protein. The participants also drank a moderate amount of red wine (2).
Results showed a significant reduction in their body weight, from 108.62 kg to 94.48 kg (2). Limiting carbohydrates in your diet allows your body to burn its stored fat to produce energy. Compared to a traditional Mediterranean diet, Mediterranean keto is more effective for weight loss.
2. Improved lipid profile
The same study revealed an improvement in the participants’ lipid profiles. These were the results (2):
- Total cholesterol – 208.24 mg/dl to 186.62 mg/dl
- Triglycerides – 218.67 mg/dl to 113.90 mg/dl
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – 114.52 mg/dl to 105.95 mg/dl
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – 50.10 mg/dl to 54.57 mg/dl
Another study showed that carbohydrate-reduced diets were indeed effective for improving cholesterol levels (3).
3. Reduced inflammation
Overall, the Mediterranean is a healthy diet. It encourages avoiding processed foods and sugars. Healthy diets help lower inflammation in the body (on top of other good lifestyle habits such as fasting and proper sleep).
The ketones that your body produces in a low-carb keto diet also lower inflammation (4). We can see here how combining both diets produces anti-inflammatory effects to lower your risk of diseases.
Mediterranean Keto Food List
Use this food list to come up with Mediterranean keto breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas!
- Vegetables: Arugula, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collard greens, lettuce, broccoli, mushrooms, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, cherry tomatoes
- Fruits: Lemon, avocados, melon, berries
- Fish: Sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, swordfish, bass
- Seafood: Oysters, mussels, clams, crab
- Poultry and eggs: Chicken, duck, poultry, eggs (chicken, quail, duck)
- Nuts and seeds: Pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds
- Dairy: Goat cheese, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, greek yogurt
- Oils: Olive oil, avocado oil, fish oil
- Herbs and spices (use only small amounts): Rosemary, paprika, garlic, oregano, mint, turmeric
- Meat (eaten occasionally): Beef, lamb, pork, veal
Mediterranean Keto Sample Meal Plan
Wondering what you can eat for an entire week? Below, you’ll find Mediterranean keto breakfast recipes as well as for lunch, dinner, and snack time in case you go hungry midday.
- Breakfast: Mediterranean keto flatbread
- Lunch: Superfood salmon salad bowl
- Snack: Collard greens wraps
- Dinner: Italian keto chicken parmesan with cabbage pasta
- Breakfast: Spinach and feta breakfast scramble (Remove the bacon)
- Lunch: Chopped mediterranean salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette
- Snack: Feta cheese stuffed bell peppers
- Dinner: Keto pesto chicken casserole with feta cheese and olives
- Breakfast: Keto Caprese omelet
- Lunch: Keto Parma ham Mediterranean plate
- Snack: Green beans and avocado
- Dinner: Gyro meat
- Breakfast: Low-carb vegetarian Mediterranean breakfast plate
- Lunch: Grilled eggplant salad with mozzarella
- Snack: Keto lemon ice cream
- Dinner: Grilled white fish with zucchini and kale pesto
- Breakfast: Keto goat cheese and mushroom frittata
- Lunch: Keto chicken pesto stew with zoodles
- Snack: Kale salad with goat cheese and pomegranate
- Dinner: Mediterranean tomato stew with calamari
- Breakfast: Tuna stuffed avocado
- Lunch: Good for you greek salad
- Snack: Eggplant dip for your choice of veggie snack
- Dinner: Oven-roasted za’atar chicken breasts
- Breakfast: Low-carb granola with yogurt and raspberries
- Lunch: Italian keto meatballs with mozzarella cheese
- Snack: Caprese snack
- Dinner: Keto salmon with pesto and spinach
Mediterranean Keto Diet Drawbacks
Now that you know the benefits of a Mediterranean keto diet, you might be wondering about its disadvantages. To be completely honest, this way of eating is clean and nutrient-dense, and there should be no drawbacks except for the following:
- You do not eat enough. Starving your body of important nutrients can lead to deficiencies. Make sure that you eat according to your hunger levels and that you always listen to your body.
- You have Type 1 Diabetes. If you have this condition, your health care provider will have to adjust your medication dosage to prevent your blood glucose from dropping too low.
- You feel that you cannot commit to this way of eating. Like any other healthy diet out there, Mediterranean keto requires motivation and consistency to work. You cannot reap its full benefits if you constantly cheat by eating processed foods and sneaking in high-carbohydrate foods.
Download this Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet PDF
Want the PDF version of the sample meals above? Click this link or the image below to download the weekly plan for free.
- Altomare R, Cacciabaudo F, Damiano G et al. The Mediterranean Diet: A History of Health. 2013 May 01
- Pérez-Guisado J, Muñoz-Serrano A, Alonso-Moraga A Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet: a healthy cardiovascular diet for weight loss. 2008 October 26
- Chen J, Ouyang C, Ding Q et al. A Moderate Low-Carbohydrate Low-Calorie Diet Improves Lipid Profile, Insulin Sensitivity and Adiponectin Expression in Rats. 2015 June 11
- Little J. The Effect of Raising Ketones Directly With MCT Oil on Inflammation in Healthy Young Adults. 2018 March 09