Expert Q&A

Mediterranean diet: Will you need to take supplements?

If I follow a Mediterranean eating plan, will I still need to take supplements? -Zoe from Utah

The traditional Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grain foods, fresh vegetables, fruit, olive oil, beans and nuts. Cheese, yogurt, eggs, fish and meat make up a much smaller percentage of the foods eaten. The emphasis on plant foods translates into a high intake of vitamins, minerals and other healthful food components like antioxidants. Natural fiber intake is also high. Red meat—a major source of iron, zinc and several other vitamins—is used less than in the United States. This isn’t a problem, though, because many vegetables, beans and grains also supply these same nutrients.

Your intake of calcium and vitamin D may end up lower, as the Mediterranean diet recommends only 2 servings of dairy food per day. The USDA recommends 2-3 servings, and the recommended daily calcium intake is 1000 milligrams or more for some age groups. That’s the equivalent of 3 or more servings of milk or yogurt daily. But because many people already take extra calcium, the suggestion to take a calcium supplement when following this diet isn't very out of the ordinary for most people.

So, the short answer to your question is, no--additional vitamin or mineral supplements are not necessary on a Mediterranean diet, with the possible exception of calcium and vitamin D. Your need for these vitamins depends on whether you consume a lot of milk or yogurt.

For more information on the mediterranean diet see the following articles from TheDietChannel: Get Healthy with a Mediterranean-Style Diet and The Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

Donna Feldman, MS, RD
Contributing Expert

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