The Mediterranean diet is known for its health benefits. While no uniform definition of a Mediterranean diet exists, the characteristic eating patterns of countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece, are key features of this dietary pattern of plant-based eating. It comprises a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil, moderate intake of fish (especially fatty fish), chicken, wine, and dairy, emphasizing low intake of meat and processed foods, and refined grains. The Mediterranean diets studied are generally moderate in fat (32 – 35%, primarily monounsaturated fats), relatively low in saturated fat (9 – 10%), and high in fibre (27 – 37 g per day).
There is increasing evidence to suggest that this style of eating is favourably linked to reduced risk of many diseases, illnesses, and conditions. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, ADHD in children and adolescents, and diabetes. It is also linked to a two-fold increase in the likelihood of weight loss maintenance.
A standout nutritional feature of the Mediterranean diet is monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, found in olives and olive oil. Given the Mediterranean region’s vastness (which spans 22 countries), the Mediterranean diet is not a diet but instead describes a style or eating pattern. Thus, there is a case to support incorporating non-traditional foods as part of the diet that still meets the nutritional criteria to provide more flexibility and greater adaptability when encouraging patients to adopt a Mediterranean diet. Given the increasing popularity of avocados, a recent publication in Frontiers of Nutrition in May 2020 made a case for the inclusion of avocados, which are not traditionally included in a Mediterranean diet.
Avocados, like olive oil, are high in monounsaturated fats (71%). One serving of avocado contains 5g of monounsaturated fat, the majority of which is oleic acid (4.5g), the same fatty acid found in olive oil. Besides, avocados are a source of fibre (5.3g per 100g).
Comparing the nutrient composition of avocado with other traditional Mediterranean foods shows that both avocados and olive oil are rich in oleic acid, with similar ratios of unsaturated to saturated fat (6:1). Avocados contain more fibre, potassium, and folate than olive oil and less energy per serving. Like avocados, nuts are a source of fibre, potassium, and folate, but are twice as high in energy per serving (185 kcal versus 80 kcal per serving).
Considering this, including avocado as part of the Mediterranean diet may help preserve the nutrient profile and make this dietary pattern more adaptable, flexible, and suitable to populations outside of the Mediterranean regions.