Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional therapy)
Creating a diet based on the foods consumed in the Mediterranean is an excellent means of protecting your heart
For a long time, scientists and healthcare experts have recognised that people who live in Mediterranean countries appear to have less heart disease than people who live in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe.
Based on research, health specialists now believe that this is largely attributable to the foods that make up the typical Mediterranean diet.
So what exactly is a Mediterranean diet?
A Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating and living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. A typical Mediterranean diet includes enjoying plenty of unrefined food including vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, herbs, legumes and cereal products. It also contains moderate amounts of dairy, eggs, fish, and some meat.
The consumption of healthy fats is also a key component in making the Mediterranean diet one of the healthiest in the world. Extra virgin olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, is thought to protect against cardiovascular disease and is frequently used in many meals.
The health benefits gained from following a traditional Mediterranean type diet plan, seem to be acquired from the combination of all these different elements along with exercise and a relaxed way of eating which often includes the occasional glass of red wine!
What are the health benefits of enjoying a Mediterranean diet?
Research has shown that following a Mediterranean type diet plan can reduce the chance of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and also Alzheimer’s disease.
How may following a Mediterranean diet aid heart heath?
- A Mediterranean diet is not a low-fat diet, but much less of the fat comes from saturated sources like butter, fatty meats, pastry or dairy fat.
- It’s rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are heart healthy, such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, seeds and nuts.
- It’s a good source of omega 3 fatty acids from seafood, especially oily fish which are good for your heart health too.
Try to include in your diet each day
Vegetables (lots of)
Extra virgin olive oil
Wholegrain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and grains
Nuts and seeds
Legumes, beans and lentils
Enjoy these a few times a week
Fish and seafood
Yoghurt. eggs and cheese
Poultry such as chicken and turkey
Eat these now and again
And what to drink on a Mediterranean diet plan?
Plenty of water
A cup of coffee per day (optional).
A small glass of red wine now and again with your main meal – optional
Further interesting reading Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine.