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Eat Heart Healthy: The Mediterranean Diet by Lauren Scherer, LVN

LaurenDid you know that the incidence of heart disease is considerably lower in Mediterranean countries than in the United States?  Studies have shown that a nutritionally balanced diet, known as the Mediterranean Diet is associated with prevention and reduction of many common ailments including cardiovascular and neurological health, diabetes and even cancer.  Taking some healthy tips from the Mediterranean culture could improve our overall wellness and lifestyle.

This diet should rather be considered a lifestyle change, since there is no specific food group actually being eliminated.  This easy to follow plan allows you to be creative while adopting a more conscious, healthy way of life.

What foods does the plan include?

The Mediterranean Diet incorporates everyday food groups in moderation.  The basics are as follows:

  • Meats and sweets- Less often, once a week or less
  • Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurts- Moderate as in daily or weekly
  • Fish and seafood- More often, at least twice a week
  • Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts- Every meal should be based around these items

 
What are the benefits?

This plan is most beneficial in controlling and even preventing certain diseases.  Using olive oil as the primary source of fat helps reduce low-density-lipoproteins (LDL) or the “bad” cholesterol.  Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also serve as this function, and in addition can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of developing blood clots, and have proven to reduce the incidence of sudden heart attacks.  The diet also helps preserve neurological function, which can lower the risk of developing diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.  Being easy to follow, no one food group is eliminated, allowing you to savor sweets for special occasions or in moderation.  This diet is appropriate for women and men of all ages, and can even be incorporated into family meals!  Another benefit?  Many have reported healthy weight loss with the plan.

What are some easy tips to follow?

  • Spice it up!  Create savory flavors with a variety of herbs and spices.  This can help make any dish tastier without the excessive use of butter or salt.
  • Replace the use of butter with olive or canola oil.  Many cultures in the Mediterranean even dip their bread in olive oil instead of lathering it with butter.
  • Eat plenty of fish!  This is a good habit to make at least twice a week.  Try to incorporate fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines which are high in the omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Limit your intake of red meat.  Substitute red meats with fish or poultry when possible, or choose lean meats as an alternative.
  • Enjoy a glass of red!  That’s right, with the Mediterranean diet, you can opt for a glass of red wine once per day.  Several research studies indicate that in moderate amounts, alcohol can actually improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.  5 ounces of red wine a day is appropriate for women and no more than 10 ounces for men.

 
Are there any associated risks with the Mediterranean Diet?

Generally, anyone can follow the plan without any harmful effects or health risks.  However, those with certain health conditions should consult their physician when inquiring about dietary changes.

Practice a balanced diet and lead a healthier lifestyle with the Mediterranean diet guidelines.  Without strict, depriving criteria, everyone can enjoy all the benefits it has to offer!

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Mediterranean-Diet_UCM_306004_Article.jsp

http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.