Italy, Amalfi Coast - Italy, Amalfi Coast - view from Conca dei Marini

Photo by Roger Smith

What better way is there to feel like you’re vacationing in a charming village on the coast of Italy than indulging in some wonderful, Mediterranean-inspired food? For ages, people living in Greece, Italy and the Middle East have enjoyed some of the region’s best bounty with diets based primarily on veggies, fruits and other plant foods (like cereals, seeds, nuts and legumes). Eggs and dairy products are less common, and fish is preferred over red meats.

I know how it seems—there’s always some crazy new diet that claims to be the next best thing to happen to the average diner. In a period where we increasingly depend on outside authorities to decide what to put on our plates, how do we weed out the good advice? Is the “Med” diet just a fad, or is it actually worth something?

A ton of studies show that the MD, which is low in saturated and trans fats (the solid and artificial kinds that clog your arteries) and high in fiber and essential nutrients, reduces the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, obesity and diabetes. It also promotes heart health, weight control and might even be associated with cancer prevention.

Another appealing part of the Mediterranean Diet is that it is more like a set of guidelines than tedious rules you don’t want to follow. So do your body some good, support your local vegetable and fruit producers, and live it up dolce vita style.

Here are ways to incorporate some Mediterranean sun into your diet:

kale salad with grapefruit

Photo by Elena Amsterdam

Make plant foods the star of your meals. By eating seasonally you won’t come across the sun-ripened tomatoes that make you dream of those warm months, but options like squash, kale, or Brussels sprouts will do just fine.

Quinoa, Lentil and Radish Salad with Piquant Salsa Verde Dressing

Photo by Milk and Honey

Load up on whole grains like quinoa or couscous for a boost of system-regulating fiber.

Fish in Cartuccio with Fregola (Ingredients)

Photo by Plated NYC

Get your protein from beans, nuts and fish instead of meats. You’ll cut out artery-clogging fats and replace them with good fats, fiber, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids that increase blood flow.

olive oil

Photo by Yerevan News

Don’t forget to drizzle as much olive oil—well, maybe not the whole bottle—on your plate as your heart desires (it will thank you). Complete your meal with a glass of antioxidant-rich wine, and you’re solid.