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Your guide to the Atlantic diet: How eating like coastal Europeans can boost your health and well-being

The Atlantic diet follows the traditional eating patterns of Portugal and Spain's Galicia region. A growing body of research is finding that the diet yields significant health benefits.

If you are interested in adding some delicious, European-inspired recipes to your meal routine while boosting your health, you should know about the Atlantic diet. 

Much like the world-famous Mediterranean diet, the Atlantic diet has been found to offer significant benefits compared to the standard American diet. 

Read on to learn more about the Atlantic diet and how to easily include its recipes and techniques into your meal routine.

The Atlantic diet refers to the ingredients and cooking techniques associated with the traditional eating patterns of Europe's Atlantic region. It includes a high consumption of fish, shellfish, vegetables (especially potatoes and cabbage), fruits, grains, nuts, legumes and honey. 


Dairy, eggs and meat play moderate roles in the Atlantic diet. Alcohol consumption is also moderate – usually limited to a glass of red wine with meals.

Olive oil is the star ingredient in the Atlantic diet, both as a seasoning and as a cooking fat. Pork lard is also used for cooking. 

For dessert, egg-based treats are common – think flans, custard tarts and bread pudding – along with dried fruit and some grain-based baked goods.

The Atlantic diet is as much about how to prepare food as the ingredients themselves. Boiling, stewing, roasting and grilling are common preparation methods. 

Foods are consumed in-season and locally sourced, which means ingredients are always fresh. It also means that the transportation and handling of foods from source to table are kept to a minimum. 

Highly processed foods are avoided, and cooking preparations are kept simple.

Scientists initially evaluated Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Iceland when formulating the diet. However, because eating patterns in most of these countries became more globalized during the 20th century, scientists later specified that the regions that best exemplify the traditional Atlantic diet to this day are Portugal and the Galicia region of Spain.

It's easy to see how a diet rich in seafood and vegetables and low in alcohol, sugar and processed foods will lead to improved health, especially when paired with regular physical activity. 

A study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open found that the Atlantic diet significantly reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome. Also known as insulin resistance syndrome, metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can increase your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

One in three adults in the United States has metabolic syndrome, per the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high blood triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol are all indicators of metabolic syndrome, especially if you have three or more of these conditions. 

Fortunately, it can be prevented through changes in your lifestyle, especially diet.

A report published in the International Journal of Food Studies notes that the Atlantic diet’s high fish consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, most likely due to the abundant amount of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Fish are also an ample source of vitamin D and calcium. 

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is strongly associated with a lower risk of degenerative disease, including cardiovascular disease and brain dysfunction, as well as proliferative diseases such as cancer. Onions and cabbage, which feature prominently in Atlantic diet recipes, are associated with healthy antioxidant and anticarcinogenic effects, respectively.

Moderate consumption of red wine may also be linked to lower incidence of coronary heart disease.

The Atlantic diet is often compared to the Mediterranean diet, which was introduced to the world after scientists in the 1960s noticed that residents of the Greek island of Crete were in unusually good health and enjoyed long longevity. 

These were attributed to the islanders’ diet, which is rich in saturated fatty acids and flavonoids – thanks in large part to the Cretan’s liberal use of olive oil, which is also important in the Atlantic diet.

Both diets are very similar, with a few distinctive differences.


Both the Atlantic and Mediterranean diets put an emphasis on seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy grains, legumes, moderate to low amounts of dairy, and moderate red wine consumption. 

However, potatoes and cabbage are far more common in the Atlantic diet than in the Mediterranean diet. Meat dishes like beef or poultry are also more common in the Atlantic diet.

Cooking techniques also differ, with steaming, boiling, baking, grilling and stewing all being used more regularly in the Atlantic diet than in the Mediterranean, which favors frying. 

The difference in diets owes much to the influence of the ancient Celts, who made a strong imprint on the culinary traditions of Portugal and Spain. 

For example, broths and stews with meat and cabbage, which have been a staple in Europe’s Atlantic region for centuries, are Celtic in origin.

If you are inspired to incorporate some dishes from the Atlantic diet into your routine, you can’t go wrong by searching for traditional recipes from Portugal and Galicia.

An easy introduction to the Atlantic diet is the cozida, a meat and vegetable stew. This was traditionally used to get the most out of leftover meats or less desirable cuts, so any white or red meats you have on hand will work nicely. Simmer the meat in a large pot of water until tender, then add potatoes, cabbage and onion. 

Bacalhau à brás is a famous Portuguese dish that uses salted cod, eggs and potatoes. This will require you to soak the cod overnight. Once soaked, the cod is shredded and sautéed. Grated potatoes are pan-fried, then mixed with beaten eggs and scrambled. Fish, potato and egg are combined into a hearty, comforting meal, particularly appropriate for cooler weather.

For dessert, try arroz doce. It combines rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon into a sweet pudding that is popular on holidays and special occasions.

Planning a week of meals in advance is the best way to stay on track when it comes to changing your eating habits. Consider setting aside time on the weekends to gather fresh ingredients and prepare your meals for the week in advance.

To build a weekly meal plan that follows the Atlantic diet, Spain’s Atlantic Diet Foundation recommends eating fish three to four times a week. For your main meal of the day, include side dishes of potatoes and rice. To fully incorporate the daily eating habits of Portugal and Galicia, have a bowl of cabbage-based vegetable soup every day.


Make sure you avoid processed foods and added sugars. Olive oil and pork fat should be your only cooking fats, so lose the canola and other seed oils. When it comes to drinking, consider exchanging beer for red wine.

As long as you stick with the recognized Atlantic diet ingredients, you have enormous freedom to choose your own meals. The Atlantic diet is not just ingredients and cooking methods – it’s also an approach to dieting that embraces variety. 

Set aside time once a week to research new recipes and add them to your repertoire. 

The Atlantic diet can offer huge improvements to your health and well-being, including reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, degenerative disease and proliferative disease. It’s also a delicious way to eat "clean."

The International Journal of Food Studies also notes that mealtimes in Portugal and Galicia are considered leisurely, communal affairs. 

So if you aren’t already doing so, try to enjoy your meals with family and friends. 

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