The Atlantic Diet: A Healthy Rival to the Mediterranean Diet

Atlantic Diet

The traditional Mediterranean diet is not only diverse, but it’s one of the healthiest diets on earth. In fact, physicians and nutritionists recommend this diet more than almost any other. But there’s another diet that’s giving the traditional Mediterranean diet some competition. It’s called the Atlantic diet.

What Is the Atlantic Diet?

Nestled along the picturesque coasts of Portugal and Spain lies people who enjoy a vibrant lifestyle and robust health. Although there are various reasons, they’re so healthy, one that stands out is the type of diet they eat, a diet known as the Atlantic diet.

This approach to eating follows some of the principles of the renowned Mediterranean diet, yet it has its own unique flavor and approach to health and longevity. Like the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet is a celebration of fresh, locally sourced, and minimally processed ingredients. Like its close cousin, it spotlights the bountiful harvests of the sea, the seasonal vibrancy of vegetables and fruits, the wholesomeness of grains and beans, and the golden goodness of olive oil.

Despite their similarities, there are some differences between the two approaches to eating. The Atlantic diet emphasizes seafood more, particularly cod, an excellent source of protein. Plus, unlike the Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet includes more meat and pork. People who eat Atlantic style also eat more potatoes than their Mediterranean counterparts.

Let’s look at what science shows about the health benefits of adopting an Atlantic diet:

Benefits for Metabolic Health

According to science, the Atlantic diet helps optimize metabolic health. People who adopt this dietary approach have a markedly lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This is a cluster of health issues, like high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which increase the odds of developing the big killer, cardiovascular disease. People who eat Atlantic style tend to have smaller waist sizes (a marker of less visceral fat) and healthier lipid profiles, including lower LDL-cholesterol and higher HDL-cholesterol. These are markers for better heart health.

Heart Health Benefits: Why Is This a Heart-Healthy Approach?

The ocean’s bounty plays a starring role in the Atlantic diet, with omega-3 fatty acids from fish and seafood, like cod, supporting heart health. Some studies show the long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids in fish have heart health benefits, but they’re also brain boosters. The cells in your body, including brain cells, have these fatty acids in their membranes. Here, they help the membrane to stay fluid. Plus, they have anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for your heart and blood vessels.

The Weight Management Benefits of the Atlantic Diet

The Atlantic diet focuses on foods that are rich in nutrients. The abundance of nutrients and lack of processing makes them ideally suited for maintaining a healthy body weight. The secret? A diet high in dietary fiber that satiates hunger and helps you stay full and satisfied. Think of a plate of protein-rich cod with a side of vegetables and a potato. There’s less fear of starchy vegetables with the Atlantic diet, yet people who eat it tend to have healthier markers for heart health. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, and the Atlantic diet contains an abundance of protein sources, both sea, animal, and plant based.

Better for the Environment

People who live in areas where the Atlantic diet is ingrained buy their foods locally and in season. This means the foods they ate are closer to them and travel shorter distances to reach their table. That’s a bonus for carbon emissions. So, the Atlantic diet is metabolically healthy but also friendly to the environment. But also know that overfishing has become a problem for certain types of fish, including cod.

The Pillars of the Atlantic Diet

What does the Atlantic diet consist of? Here’s a summary:

  • Seafood Galore: A treasure trove of sea and river fish, along with a variety of seafood, graces the table three to four times a week.
  • Vegetable Variety: The diet celebrates a rainbow of vegetables, with a special nod to the Brassica family–think turnip greens, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower.
  • Fruitful Delights: Fresh, seasonal fruits are the sweet staples of this diet.
  • Grains and Starches: Whole grains, chestnuts, potatoes, and bread take precedence over pasta, offering wholesome energy sources.
  • Legume Love: Beans and legumes contain protein and fiber, rounding out the diet’s nutritional profile.
  • Olive Oil Elegance: The liquid gold of olive oil is the culinary artist, used for cooking and seasoning with grace.
  • Dairy and Lean Meats: In moderation, dairy products and lean meats add variety and richness to the diet.

Are There Downsides to the Atlantic Diet?

Although there’s much to love about the Atlantic diet, it has a few downsides too. While fish, a major food people who eat the Atlantic way add to their plate, is high in protein and rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3s, fish is increasingly high in toxins, like heavy metals. Plus, cod is lower in omega-3s than some other fish, like wild-caught salmon. Due to concerns about heavy metals, guidelines suggest that pregnant women should limit the amount of seafood they consume to no more than two servings a week.

How to Embrace the Atlantic Style of Eating

Are you ready to adopt the Atlantic approach to eating? Shift your focus (and grocery shopping) away from the supermarket and shop at local outlets, like farmer’s markets, where you can buy seasonally. You’ll enjoy food at its freshest and know you’re choosing the most environmentally sustainable options. Add seafood to your plate but be mindful about heavy metals concerns. Choosing smaller fish, lower on the food chain, is one strategy to reduce your exposure to heavy metals.

Make it easier on yourself and keep it simple with cooking methods to bring out the natural goodness of foods. Steaming, sauteing, and baking are options. Also, celebrate the joy of sharing meals with friends and families, as many people in areas that eat this way do.

The Atlantic diet is a harmonious blend of health, culture, and environmental consciousness. Eating locally and seasonally helps you stay closer to nature and embrace the joys and abundance of each season.

Keep in mind that the best diet for you depends upon your lifestyle, genetics, and whether you have other health issues that affect your physiology. So, consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new diet to ensure it aligns with your individual health needs and goals.

Also, people who live in areas where the Atlantic diet is popular also have other healthy habits that account for some of the health benefits they enjoy. For example, they stay physically active and have strong social connections. For best results, follow their example and take a holistic approach to health.


  • Cambeses-Franco C, Gude F, Benítez-Estévez AJ, et al. Traditional Atlantic diet and its effect on health and the environment: a secondary analysis of the GALIAT cluster randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(2): e2354473. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.54473.
  • “Atlantic Diet: Study Finds It May Shrink Waistline, Drop Cholesterol.” 07 Feb. 2024, healthline.com/health-news/study-finds-atlantic-diet-can-help-your-cholesterol-and-shrink-your-waistline.
  • Cambeses-Franco C, Gude F, Benítez-Estévez AJ, et al. Traditional Atlantic Diet and Its Effect on Health and the Environment. JAMA network open. 2024;7(2):e2354473-e2354473. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.54473

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