A Mediterranean-style diet can help you achieve the American Heart Association’s recommendations for a healthy dietary pattern that:
- emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes;
- includes low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fish, poultry, non-tropical vegetable oils and nuts; and
- limits added sugars, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats.
This style of eating can play a big role in preventing heart disease and stroke and reducing risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There is some evidence that a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil may help the body remove excess cholesterol from arteries and keep blood vessels open.
You may have heard about popular diets like paleo, ketogenic (or keto), Atkins, interval, zone and Whole30. Keep in mind, not all trendy diets meet the AHA’s science-based criteria for a healthy eating pattern. Some show dramatic but short-term results and are not heart-healthy.
DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is another eating plan that aligns with AHA recommendations and has been proven to improve health. The DASH diet allows more dairy products and meat, while the Mediterranean diet includes regular use of olive oil.
A plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet can also be a healthy way to eat.
The most important thing is to focus on the overall quality of your diet, rather than single nutrients or foods. Try to include more nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and lean proteins. Limit foods that offer lots of calories but little nutritional value.
Eating the Mediterranean Way
- Interested in trying the Mediterranean diet? These tips will help you get started:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for 7 to 10 servings a day of fruit and vegetables.
- Opt for whole grains. Switch to whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta. Experiment with other whole grains, such as bulgur and farro.
- Use healthy fats. Try olive oil as a replacement for butter when cooking. Instead of putting butter or margarine on bread, try dipping it in flavored olive oil.
- Eat more seafood. Eat fish twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices.
- Grilled fish tastes good and requires little cleanup. Avoid deep-fried fish.
- Reduce red meat. Substitute fish, poultry or beans for meat. If you eat meat, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small.
- Enjoy some dairy. Eat low-fat Greek or plain yogurt and small amounts of a variety of cheeses.
- Spice it up. Herbs and spices boost flavor and lessen the need for salt.
Adapted from: www.heart.org