The Mediterranean diet is high in unsaturated fats, usually sourced from olives and olive oil, nuts and avocados. A John Hopkins research team in Boston says that introducing these fats into the diet is good for the heart, even if patients don’t lose weight as part of the process. The diet also avoids highly processed carbohydrates, like white bread and white pasta.
If you’re heart health needs a good overhaul, this diet might be well-suited for you. A lot of diets that focus on good nutrition and healthy eating include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish, while eliminating bad fat. These are good eating choices to make, but the Mediterranean diet takes it a step further. This diet includes olive oil, legumes like peas, beans and lentils, whole foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables, and suggests avoiding breads and pastas. Additionally, Mediterranean diets are relatively low in dairy products and favor fish over meat. The Mediterranean diet even promotes red wine in moderation. These subtle variations in foods and even proportions characterize the way Mediterranean people have eaten for centuries, and it’s no coincidence that they rank at the bottom of the list for heart disease and heart-related incidences.
And speaking of heart disease, recent research has suggested that a traditional Mediterranean diet not only is great for the heart and reduces the risk of a heart attack, but it also aids in the prevention of high blood pressure, certain types of cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, the “M-diet” is not at all like typical Western diets, which are notorious for containing foods with preservatives and animal fats, and are literally absent from vegetables and fruits. Western diets, or “ugly American” diets, are attributed to many chronic diseases, not the least of which is inflammation in all parts of the human body.
You might be thinking that the Mediterranean Diet is extreme, and only contains a limited number of foods. This is far from the truth. It is not a strict list of what you should not eat. In fact, it’s a very loose list of some great tasting and satisfying food groups that you won’t mind maintaining for the rest of your life.
At its core, the Mediterranean diet uses a lot of mono-unsaturated olive oil or rapeseed oil in place of animal fat such as butter or lard when cooking. This cooking practice has been shown to be exponentially better for the heart considering animal fat, lard and butter can cause heart valve blockage. The “M-Diet” also steers away from dairy, because it’s high in fat as well.
Salt is also a “no-no” while adhering to this diet, considering most foods already have plenty of natural salt in them. And stay away from alcohol, (except moderate amounts of red wine during meals), and sugary drinks like sodas and sports drinks. Replace them with a ton of water, or smaller amounts of coffees and teas. If you like fruits and vegetables, you can eat these on this diet until you explode. Legumes and whole grains are also part of this heart-healthy diet.
Eat fish and poultry rather than meat, but if you can’t give up the red meat, eat it no more than once a week. Finally, fast-food and highly processed foods are like the devil with the Mediterranean diet. They contain lethal amounts of saturated fat and salt, which raise, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, among other unhealthy blood levels.
If you’re consulting with a dietician, they will suggest that many of the components of the Mediterranean diet are exactly what you need to stay healthy. And the beautiful thing with this eating plan is that it tastes fantastic, is nourishing, fills you up and most importantly, is an eating plan that you’ll enjoy maintaining for the rest of your life.
David Novak is a international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in GQ, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, among others, and he has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Morning Show and Paul Harvey Radio. David is a specialist at consumer technology, health and fitness, and he also owns a PR firm and a consulting company where he and his staff focus on these industries. He is a regular contributing editor for Healthline. For more information, visit http://www.healthline.com/.