Top 10 Mediterranean-Style Eating Principles for Gut Health

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The Mediterranean Diet is rich in fibre and prebiotics and is well researched for its health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases, improving gut health, and improving mental health.  In fact, it’s one of the most well-researched diets when it comes to supporting mental health. The SMILES trial effectively demonstrated how the Mediterranean Diet can alleviate symptoms of clinical depression [1].  Let’s delve into the key principles you can apply and how exactly it can boost your gut health, mood, and more!

1. Use EVOO as your main added fat (2-3 Tablespoons/day)

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a staple in the Mediterranean diet! It contains a number of healthful components, including monounsaturated fats, a diverse range of antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds, including polyphenols which can increase the beneficial microbes in your gut. [2] If you ask us, there’s a million and one ways to use EVOO that can make any dish that much tastier! Some great ways you can incorporate EVOO into your meals is by tossing it with your favourite veggies and roasting them, making your own simple salad dressing and skipping the heavily processed ones, or drizzling it on top of some fresh tomatoes and enjoying!

 2. Eat 5+ serves of vegetables each day

Rich in fibre and prebiotics, vegetables are a core component of a gut-healthy diet!  Are you reaching your 5 serves? 1 serve equals ½ a cup of cooked veg or 1 cup of leafy greens. Aim to fill half your plate with salad or vegetables to help you reach this amount.

 3. Include 3x legume meals per week

Did you know that legumes can decrease your risk of colorectal cancer and reduce LDL cholesterol [3]? These plant proteins are rich in soluble fibre which promotes a healthy digestive system and can also bind to cholesterol to remove it from the body. Do you need some help learning to love legumes? Try mixing them into your favourite dishes, like adding lentils into your curries or black beans into your tacos or pasta sauces.

4. Eat 3x fish or seafood meals per week

Fatty fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids! Omega-3 fatty acids help to increase anti-inflammatory compounds, such as increasing butyrate-producing bacteria [4]!

5. Eat red meat less often ~1/week

Studies have shown that high consumption of red and/or processed meat increase risk of colorectal cancer and negatively affect the gut microbiota [5]. Opt for plant proteins or lean sources of meat like poultry more often!

6. Eat ~2 serves of fruit per day

Fruit is abundant in fibre and polyphenols and is a great way to help you include more diversity in your diet and - as the old saying goes - eat the rainbow! Including a variety of plants in your diet helps to diversify your gut microbiota. Try switching up the usual fruits you go for by selecting what’s in season or going to your local farmer’s market.

7. Choose dairy each day, preferably fermented

Fermented dairy products contain live microorganisms which help to support your gut, and some types of yoghurt contain proven probiotics! Not only is it good for your gut, but dairy is an excellent source of calcium which many Australians do not get enough off. Try having a glass of kefir or having a tub of yoghurt as a snack.

8. Choose wholegrain breads and cereals

Unlike refined grains, wholegrains remain intact along with their vitamin, mineral, and fibre content which your gut bugs love. Look for labels like “very high in fibre” or the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council whole grain certification to help guide your shopping choices!

9. Include an optional 100ml of red wine with a meal

Like EVOO, red wine is rich in polyphenols which supports good gut health. In the Mediterranean diet, wine is consumed with meals in moderation and enjoyed socially. Remember, the key here is in moderation (and you don't need to start drinking if you don't already drink).

10. Snack on nuts most days and reduce sweets

Instead of reaching for biscuits as an afternoon pick-me-up, why not snack on some nuts? Nuts are nutrient-dense and are rich in fibre which helps to keep you regular. Worried about the calories? Not all the energy found in nuts is absorbed, which may explain why nut consumption does not lead to weight gain.

A Final Word

 Here we’ve broken down our top tips to help you follow more of a Mediterranean -style diet which may help you boost your gut health, reduce inflammation, improve mental health and more. You may wish to focus on one principle each week to slowly build these habits into your lifestyle!


[1] Jacka, F.N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R. et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Med 15, 23 (2017).

[2] Millman JF, Okamoto S, Teruya T, Uema T, Ikematsu S, Shimabukuro M, Masuzaki H. Extra-virgin olive oil and the gut-brain axis: influence on gut microbiota, mucosal immunity, and cardiometabolic and cognitive health. Nutr Rev. 2021 Nov 10;79(12):1362-1374. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuaa148. PMID: 33576418; PMCID: PMC8581649.

[3] Kouris-Blazos A, Belski R. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2016;25(1):1-17. doi: 10.6133/apjcn.2016.25.1.23. PMID: 26965756.

[4] Costantini L, Molinari R, Farinon B, Merendino N. Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Gut Microbiota. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec 7;18(12):2645. doi: 10.3390/ijms18122645. PMID: 29215589; PMCID: PMC5751248.

[5] Song M, Chan AT, Sun J. Influence of the Gut Microbiome, Diet, and Environment on Risk of Colorectal Cancer. Gastroenterology. 2020 Jan;158(2):322-340. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.06.048. Epub 2019 Oct 3. PMID: 31586566; PMCID: PMC6957737.

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