The Mediterranean diet is based on the foods in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, especially Greece, Spain, and southern Italy. The diets of the southern Mediterranean countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia and of the eastern Mediterranean countries are included; but, these diets have not been studied well at this time.
Typical foods in the Mediterranean diet are as follows: Olive oil, fruits, and vegetables are important. Fish, dairy, poultry, and eggs are consumed in moderate quantities. Red meat is eaten only a few times per week.
Olive oil is frequently consumed uncooked in salad dressings and sauces. Olive oil provides fats in the Mediterranean diet that are rich in the n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is an 18 carbon n-3 fatty acid. ALA has been shown to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease and can be converted in the body to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA.) Conversion to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is not very efficient in land animals.
The contribution of ALA from vegetables should not be ignored. The amounts of n-3 fatty acids in vegetables are small, but the portions of vegetables consumed in the Mediterranean diet are large. Various wild vegetables, such as purslane and wild onions, contain large amounts of ALA.
Suggested doses for ALA are 1-2 grams per day. Doses for EPA and DHA are 0.5-1.0 gram per day. Bioavailability for fatty acids is higher for foods than from supplementation.
Fish consumption provides n-3 fatty acids.
Dried fruits and nuts supply ALA in the Mediterranean diet, with nuts being considered to be dried fruits.
Wine in moderate amounts is part of the Mediterranean diet, as are beans, legumes, and cereals.
In some parts of the Mediterranean, snails and frogs provide part of the supply of n-3 fatty acids.
CONCLUSION: The Mediterranean diet provides fats in the form of olive oil; but the contribution of n-3 from vegetables and fish should not be overlooked. ALA in n-3 fatty acids can be converted in the body to EPA.
NOTE: N-3 fatty acids are the same as omega-3 fatty acids. ALA is 18 carbon N-3 fatty acid. (One story is that the n on the keyboard is as close as any other symbol to the shape of the omega symbol. So, n-3 has been used in some countries to designate omega-3 fatty acids).