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The Mediterranean Diet Ranked Best Plant-Based Diet

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

February 19, 2020

For the third year in a row, the Mediterranean Diet has been ranked as the gold standard of plant-based diets by US News and World Report’s 2020 rankings of best diets. Plant-based diets focus on foods primarily from plants such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. The Mediterranean Diet proved to be the best diet for overall health and management of chronic diseases. This diet emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood. It also includes eating less dairy, sweets, and red meat than a typical Western diet. For more information about the Mediterranean diet visit “How to Build a Mediterranean Diet in 3 Simple Steps.”

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Plant-based foods are considered functional foods and contain phytonutrients that have been shown to prevent and reduce diseases. Functional foods are foods that have a positive effect on a person’s health beyond basic nutritional needs, promote optimal health, and help reduce the risk of disease. Foods with phytonutrients can contribute to cancer prevention, cancer treatments, and long term survivorship.

Examples of foods that fight against cancer include:

  • cruciferous vegetables
  • green, orange, and red plant foods
  • flax
  • cherries
  • citrus fruit peel
  • rosemary
  • berries

Some of these foods may protect cells from becoming cancerous, slow cancer cell growth, strengthen immune function, limit the production of cancer-related hormones, fight viruses, work as antioxidants, and have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and Ackerman Cancer Center recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet that includes a wide variety of plant foods. However, ask your dietitian or your doctor before making any changes to your current diet, especially if you are under active cancer treatment. Your body’s needs might be different than the general population.

Recipe of the Week
The recipe of the week comes via Mediterranean Orange Pomegranate Salad

Salad ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. thinly sliced red onions (about 1 cup)
  • 25 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 6 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • pinch kosher salt
  • pinch sweet paprika
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • seeds of 1 pomegranate

Dressing ingredients

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water, optional


  1. Mix the lime juice, olive oil, honey, and orange blossom water together in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the sliced onions in a bowl of ice-cold water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, then remove the onions from the water and dry them completely.
  3. Prepare a serving platter. Sprinkle half the amount of chopped mint leaves on the platter, then arrange the orange slices and onions on top. Sprinkle a pinch of salt, sweet paprika, and cinnamon. Now spread the pomegranate seeds on top.
  4. Drizzle or spoon the dressing over the orange pomegranate salad (You can add as little or as much as you want of the dressing.)
  5. Finally, top the salad with the remaining fresh mint leaves. Set aside for 5 minutes or so before serving.
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