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Italian Twist on the Mediterranean Diet Boosts Weight Loss — Why Women Over 50 Can Benefit Most

It worked for Mindy Morrow, 55: She lost 81 pounds and slashed her high cholesterol.


Each year, a panel of prestigious experts convenes to assess popular eating plans and pick the best one. This year, the Mediterranean diet came out on top for the 7th consecutive year. It’s no wonder: Studies prove this way of eating protects against virtually every age-related disease. But what if there was a twist that works wonders on our waistlines and whole new level of tasty? There is! By adding in more Italian-inspired favorites like plant protein and olive oil, standard Mediterranean fare gets a powerful upgrade. This Italian Mediterranean diet helped busy mom Mindy Morrow shed 81 pounds and slash her sky-high cholesterol, plus inspired her to help her own mother, Carol, get healthier, too. Here, learn how you can reap the benefits of an Italian Mediterranean diet with delicious foods you already love.

What is the Italian Mediterranean diet?

The Italian Mediterranean diet borrows the best, healthy practices from a region linked to a long, healthy life. (Click through to learn how the diet eaten in Blue Zones can help you slim.) To begin with, you’ll load up on staples like fresh veggies, olive oil, herbs and spices. Plant-based proteins like beans are a must-have, and moderate amounts of fish, poultry, whole grains and nuts round out meals. Avoiding red and processed meats as well as sweets and processed foods is key. Without a doubt, the recipe combinations are endless!

How women over 50 can benefit

According to University of Rome scientists, it’s proven to power off pounds. To demonstrate, they had women in different stages of life test foods traditionally eaten along Italy’s Mediterranean coast. While all the study subjects got healthier and lost weight, postmenopausal women experienced the greatest boost — they even burned fat faster than those many years their junior. Bonus: Women who stuck closely to the approach ended up with the most metabolism-boosting muscle, so they were stronger, firmer and primed “to keep off lost pounds for good,” reveals study head Mauro Lombardo, MD. “We were surprised and pleased by the results!”

Related: The Mediterranean Diet Is Known For Being Healthy — But It Also Produces Impressive Weight Loss Results

Why olive oil is key on the Italian Mediterranean diet

Dr. Lombardo notes that Italian-style Mediterranean dieters get nearly 20% of their calories from olive oil. The advantage: Studies not only show the oil’s compounds slash the risk of heart disease, they also lower blood sugar, speed metabolism and more. What’s more, new findings suggest antioxidants in olive oil “feed” special bacteria in our digestive tract that are linked to lower obesity risk.

“Olive oil is special,” confirms Brown University’s Mary Flynn, RD, PhD. Indeed, in her research, women in their 60s and 70s who went on a Mediterranean-style diet with at least 3 Tbs. of olive oil daily were able to eat more total calories and still lose more weight than other dieters.

Related: This Surprise Olive Oil Trick Is Helping Women Over 50 Balance Blood Sugar to Lose Weight Effortlessly

The top proteins for the Italian Mediterranean diet

On Italy’s Mediterranean coast, low-cost beans and peas actually beat fish as the main protein. For that reason, not only does that save money, it fights middle-age spread. Indeed, exciting new research hints that plant protein heals damage to little furnaces inside our cells, “offsetting age-related metabolic disturbances,” says study head Hana Kahleova, MD, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. (One way to get an Italian-Mediterranean boost of plant-protein? Protein pasta made from beans, which can also boost weight loss.)

And beans’ power doesn’t end there. Experts note they also contain a special type of “resistant” starch that triggers 20% faster fat burning while improving insulin sensitivity. What’s more, recent research from Tufts and Harvard revealed that women eating more plant protein were 46% more likely to be healthy well into their later years.

But why did Dr. Lombardo’s study find plant protein helped women maintain metabolism-boosting muscle? For now, it’s a slimming, energizing mystery. One thing is for sure: Eat the Italian-Mediterranean way, “and you don’t need a strict diet to achieve radical changes,” says Dr. Lombardo. “My patients are always amazed.” (Click through to learn why the Italian Mediterranean diet is one of the best COPD self-care strategies, too.)

Italian Mediterranean diet results: Mindy Morrow, 55

Before and after photos of Mindy Morrow who lost 81 lbs with the help of an Italian Mediterranean Diet
Steve Puppe

When Mindy Morrow turned 50, she was blindsided by rapid weight gain. As a busy mom of five, her go-to’s were all boxed and packaged foods she could get on the table in a hurry. “I was spiraling into a bad place,” she admits. “I also had swollen feet, sore joints, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and constant sleepiness,” she recalls. “My mom, Carol, was 350 pounds and wheelchair-bound because of her weight. I worried I was on that path.”

So when her doctor suggested a Mediterranean diet, Mindy began filling up on salmon, veggies and olive oil. She ended up feeling especially good when she ate plant foods, including Italian staples like olive oil and beans. “My family joined in with me, and we made awesome meals together. My cravings for junk were gone.” She also got plenty of protein from plant sources like whole grains, nuts and beans. “It was so satisfying. I started to feel hope.”

Pounds came off steadily — 81 in all. She got off blood pressure meds she’d taken for decades. Her tiredness was gone, and she gradually became more active. “After a few months, my cholesterol levels dropped from 200 to 137.”

The best part: “My mom asked for help getting healthy, and it was one of the happiest days of my life. She was missing out on so much because of her struggle to get around,” says Mindy, who began by suggesting simple Mediterranean meal ideas like lentil soup and hummus on healthy bread. “I had my doubts,” admits Carol, 75. “But then I started losing weight.” A year later, Carol was down 100 pounds. “Now I walk without pain and I’m no longer short of breath. I tell everyone that it’s never too late to change for the better!”

Italian Mediterranean diet meal inspiration

To blast over-50 fat the Italian-Mediterranean way, incorporate 1 cup of beans/peas and 2–3 Tbs. of olive oil daily into meals packed with veggies, herbs, spices and fruit; add moderate amounts of seafood, poultry, nuts, whole grains and wine. Limit meat, sweets and processed food. Tip: Storing canned beans in the fridge causes extra fat-burning resistant starch to form in them. (Click through for more on resistant starch for weight loss.) Always get your doctor’s okay to try a new plan.

Breakfast: Spread natural peanut butter (peanuts are a type of bean!) and low-sugar jam on whole-grain bread; add a side of fresh fruit.

Lunch: Enjoy a large serving of chickpeas with salad greens and chopped veggies, optional cheese and olive-oil vinaigrette.

Dinner: Toss bean-based pasta, such as Banza brand, with olive oil, marinara, roasted veggies and optional olives and tuna.

Bonus recipe: Better brownies

Plate of brownies made with beans as part of an Italian Mediterranean Diet

Beans make these comforting delights fudgy and healthy! Makes 16 servings.


  • 14 pitted dates, soaked in water
  • 1 (16 oz.) can black beans, rinsed
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup cocoa
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips


  1. Pat dates dry. In food processor, blitz dates and beans.
  2. Transfer to a bowl; stir in remaining ingredients.
  3. Spread in parchment-lined square pan; bake at 325ºF for 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

For more Mediterranean-inspired ways to enhance health, check out these stories:

Scientists: This Simple Hack Makes the Mediterranean Diet 5x More Effective for Women Over 50

Olive Oil and Lemon Juice: The TikTok-Trendy Duo That May Deliver Real Health Benefits

The Mediterranean Diet Is Known For Being Healthy — But It Also Produces Impressive Weight Loss Results

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