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One diet that appears to represent a way of eating that provides significant protection against heart disease is the traditional Mediterranean diet. This term has a specific meaning; it does not mean simply Italian food. The Mediterranean diet reflects food patterns typical of Crete, parts of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s. The traditional Mediterranean diet has shown tremendous benefits in fighting heart disease and cancer, as well as diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet has the following characteristics:
- It centers on an abundance of plant food, including fruit, vegetables, breads, pasta, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Foods are minimally processed and there is a focus on seasonal, fresh, and locally grown foods.
- Fresh fruit is the typical daily dessert.
- Sweets containing concentrated sugars or honey are consumed a few times per week at the most.
- Low-fat dairy products, principally cheese and yogurt, are consumed daily in low to moderate amounts.
- Fish is consumed on a regular basis.
- Poultry and eggs are consumed in moderate amounts, about one to four times weekly, or not at all.
- Red meat is consumed in small amounts, and infrequently.
- Olive oil is the principal source of fat.
- Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals.
A Mediterranean-style combines healthy fats (like nuts and olive oil), lean protein (including fish and legumes), whole grains (such as brown rice and quinoa), and plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies.
This beneficial diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants. Research shows that diet high in these foods may help decrease your risk of high blood pressure, decrease "bad" cholesterol (LDL), and increase "good" cholesterol (HDL).
So nosh like a Greek to reduce your risk of heart disease!
Rich in fruits and vegetables, the Mediterranean diet may help prevent weight gain as we age. This video by Dr. Robin Miller explains the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet can be beneficial in lowering susceptibility to chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, as well as increasing life expectancy. For example, a 1960's study found that the natives of Greece had a rate of heart disease that was 90 percent lower than that of Americans at the time.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.