The Atlantic Diet vs. Mediterranean Diet, What’s the Difference?

The Atlantic Diet vs. Mediterranean Diet, What’s the Difference?

Diet fads come and go but some eating patterns are more like a healthy lifestyle than a diet. The Mediterranean diet is one of those diets, but another eating pattern, the Atlantic Diet, is getting some attention lately in the scientific literature because of its health-promoting effects. 

What is the Atlantic Diet?

It’s also known as the Southern European Atlantic diet because it’s the traditional diet of northwest Spain and northern Portugal.1 It’s also been called the Mediterranean diet’s neighbor because of its regional location and similarities.

The Atlantic diet is like the Mediterranean diet in that it is high in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil. The main difference from the Mediterranean diet is that the Atlantic diet contains more dairy (mainly milk and cheese), fish and seafood, meat (beef, pork, poultry, and game), bread, and potatoes than the Mediterranean diet.1 Both diets focus on seasonal, local, fresh, and minimally processed foods, which make them both appealing from a sustainable, environmental perspective.2

What Are the Health Benefits of the Atlantic Diet?

Like the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet is heart-healthy3 and there are other health benefits as well. According to a 2021 study featuring older adults, the Atlantic diet may help you live longer.4 A 2023 European multicohort study also demonstrated that eating an Atlantic diet was associated with better mental health.5

A 2024 study found that people who followed the Atlantic diet reduced their risk of metabolic syndrome, which means the diet is good for blood sugar, heart health, and normal body weight.2 This study also found that the people eating an Atlantic diet had significantly lower carbon footprint emissions compared to those who did not eat the diet, showing that this eating pattern is also good for the environment.

To get started eating more Atlantic, focus on the foundational aspects of the diet:

  • Use olive oil for cooking and dressing.
  • Increase plant-based foods making those the focal point of your plate.
  • Eat fish or shellfish a few times a week. 
  • Significantly reduce consumption of processed foods.
  • Eat local whenever possible.
  • And even though dairy and meat are allowed, eat smaller portions, and eat these foods in moderation, opting for plant-based foods when possible.

While both have similar important characteristics, because the Atlantic diet allows for more meat and dairy, some people may be drawn to that eating pattern. No matter what you call it, focusing on the above eating habits will go a long way toward supporting better health.

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  1. Garcia-Gomez B, Rivas-Casais A, Lorences-Touxon R, et al. Adherence to and knowledge about the Atlantic Diet pattern in the senior population of the Galician region (NW Spain). Journal of Functional Foods. 2022;91.
  2. Cambeses-Franco C, Gude F, Benitez-Estevez AJ, et al. Traditional Atlantic Diet and its effect on health and the environment. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(2).
  3. Rodriguez-Martin C, Garcia-Ortiz L, Rodriguez-Sanchez E, et al. The relationship of the Atlantic diet with cardiovascular risk and markers of arterial stiffness in adults without cardiovascular disease. Nutrients. 2019;11(4).
  4. Carballo-Casla A, Ortola R, Garcia-Esquinas E, et al. The Southern European Atlantic Diet and all-cause mortality in older adults. BMC Medicine. 2021;19. 
  5. Carballo-Casla A, Stefler D, Ortola R, et al. The Southern European Atlantic Diet and depression risk: a European multicohort study. Molecular Psychiatry. 2023; 28:3475-3483.
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