The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterised by an abundance of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes); olive oil is the principle source of fat. Dairy products, mainly yoghurt and cheese, are eaten in low to moderate amounts, as well as fish and poultry. Red meat is eaten only in small amounts. The Mediterranean diet contains wine in moderation, usually consumed with meals. These food patterns lead to a nutrient composition with low contents of unfavourable or undesirable nutrients (saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, cholesterol), with high contents of desirable and health-beneficial nutrients (dietary fibre, complex carbohydrates, monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, minor components), and with a low energy density. Due to its specific food patterns and its favourable nutrient composition the Mediterranean diet has undoubtedly contributed to the low rates of numerous chronic diseases observed in the Mediterranean region and has been proven as a model for healthy nutrition. In particular, a large body of evidence documents the beneficial relationship between the traditional Mediterranean diet, cardiovascular risk factors, such as hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, diabetes and obesity, and coronary heart disease. Furthermore, there is evidence that the Mediterranean diet plays a role in cancer prevention.