If you have heart issues, the Mediterranean diet is a diet you should consider! It is based on the traditional foods that people ate in countries such as Greece and Italy during the 1960s. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Mediterranean diet. Let’s begin.
Why Should I Choose the Mediterranean Diet?
The interest in this diet began over 50 years ago. During a study of 13,000 middle aged men, it was discovered that there were fewer men with coronary heart disease in the Mediterranean countries than the United States. Later research discovered that this diet was linked to less risk factors for general heart disease as well. This diet plan is still one of the ones that is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The World Health Organization also supports it as a healthy dietary plan. Many studies have illustrated that the Mediterranean diet can encourage weight loss. It also protects against heart attacks, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet has several different versions. The purpose of this article is to give you a general idea of the dietary pattern.
So what is it about the Mediterranean diet that results in significantly less heart disease than the United States? The Mediterranean diet contains more fruits, vegetables, greek yogurt, nuts, fish, and whole grains. Additionally, it allows ingredients like olive oil and red wine. These are ingredients that are good for lowering stress when you consume in moderation. Mediterranean lifestyle also includes dining with family, getting plenty of exercise, and eating your biggest meal at lunch.
Now that you know the general idea of the Mediterranean diet, we will discuss each of these items in detail.
Popular fruits that are included in the Mediterranean diet are:
What do all of these fruits have in common? They are full of fiber and contain antioxidants.
Olives help reduce cholesterol levels. They also contain anti-inflammatory properties. This helps to support overall health.
Avocados encourage brain and heart health. They also help you to feel full. This is beneficial because you will eat less.
Grapes are also filled with antioxidants. In addition, they contain vitamin K and vitamin C. (5) They also lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Resveratrol is also found in grapes. Resveratrol increases insulin sensitivity. This helps your body use glucose properly and lowers blood sugar.(6)
Figs contain a lot of fiber. Fiber helps with digestive issues and makes you feel full. It also helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. Additionally, figs are a good source of calcium. Calcium helps to decrease osteoporosis.
Tomatoes contain lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has many health benefits. Some of them are:
- Sun Protection
- Improved Heart Health
- Lower Risk of Cancer
The Mediterranean diet suggests eating fruit in the afternoon as a snack or after dinner as a dessert.
Vegetables are also a large part of the Mediterranean diet. You should aim for about two servings per day. The best way to incorporate vegetables is by using them as snacks and side dishes. Vegetables that will benefit you the most are:
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Artichokes, Beets and Broccoli
- Cucumber, Eggplant and Mushrooms
- Radishes and Onions
Dark leafy greens are rich sources of fiber, folate, and carotenoids. They contain antioxidants, vitamins C, and vitamin K. Additionally, they contain iron and calcium.
Artichokes help to boost your immune system, prevent cancer, and manage weight. They also lower blood pressure, help liver function, and boost the cardiovascular system.
Beets help to lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, and improve digestion. They also improve mental and cognitive function. Beets promote the dilation of blood vessels and therefore increase blood flow to the brain. (1)
Broccoli contains vitamin K and vitamin C. It is also a good source of folate and contains fiber. Vitamin C helps to build collagen which helps heal wounds and form body tissue. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant as well.
Cucumbers are beneficial because they contain antioxidants, promote weight loss and lower blood sugar. They also help with digestion and increase hydration.
Eggplants reduce the risk of heart disease, are rich in antioxidants and help to control blood sugar levels. (2)
Mushrooms contain protein and fiber. Additionally, they are rich in B vitamins. Furthermore, mushrooms have selenium in them. This is important because it helps to improve the immune system and reduce cell damage.(3) They also contain potassium. Potassium helps to maintain normal heart rhythm, fluid balance, and nerve function.(3)
Radishes have many health benefits. They aid digestion, boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and keep skin healthy. In fact, a study in 2010 found that radish root extract caused cell death in some cancer cells.(4)
Onions fight inflammation, decrease triglycerides and reduce cholesterol levels. They also help decrease blood pressure and guard against blood clots.
Greek Yogurt and Artisanal Cheese
The Mediterranean diet also includes small amounts of full fat dairy products. They are rich in probiotics, and the yogurt is fermented. The benefit of this is that fermented yogurt helps to enhance gut bacteria. They also protect against osteoporosis, and aid digestion.
Nuts are also a large part of the Mediterranean eating style. They contain unsaturated fats and protein. Additionally they add calcium, potassium, and fiber to your diet. Walnuts and almonds are the most popular nuts that are included in the Mediterranean diet. You should try to include them in your diet every day. You can eat them as a snack, in a salad, or in a trail mix.
Eat Fatty Fish
The primary source of protein for the Mediterranean diet is fatty fish. Fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are popular on the Mediterranean diet. This is because these fish are rich in omega – 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial because they :
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Reduce Triglycerides
- Slow the Growth of Plaque in the Arteries
- Reduce Risks of Heart Attack and Stroke
- Reduce Sudden Cardiac Death
When I think of the Mediterranean diet, the first thing I think of is Italy and the many carbohydrates that are considered “Italian food.” However, the Mediterranean diet is focused on a healthier version of these carbohydrates.
We suggest options such as Ezekiel bread. Ezekiel bread has more protein and fiber than other breads. Additionally, it has a lower glycemic index for those who need to keep consistent sugar levels.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. This is important because they help to protect cardiovascular health. Additionally, it contains active compounds that contribute to heart health and lowers stress levels. Several scientific studies have found that those who consume the most olive oil have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis. To incorporate it into your diet, you can use it as a salad dressing, or instead of butter.
Red wine is known for being healthy for your heart. The antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may protect your heart by lining the blood vessels. One of these polyphenols is called resveratrol. Resveratrol has many health benefits such as:
- Lowers LDL Cholesterol
- Increases HDL Cholesterol
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Discourages Blood Clots
- Reduces Inflammation
- Lengthens LifeSpan
- Protects the Brain
- Increases Insulin Sensitivity
- Decreases Joint Pain
- Kills Cancer Cells
It may even help to prevent some types of cancer and prevent vision loss! (7)
Overall Mediterranean Diet Benefits
The Mediterranean diet as a whole, helps to reduce mental and physical health problems. Read below for a list.
- Prevents Heart Disease and Strokes
- Keeps You from Developing Muscle and Bone Weakness
- Reduces the Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
- Reduces the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
- Increases Life Span
- Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes
This diet benefits older adults because it reduces the chance you will develop muscle weakness by 70 percent.(10)
Research shows that this diet is beneficial for cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and overall blood vessel health. This helps to reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.(9)
The Mediterranean diet prevents cells from oxidative stress. This helps to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 50%.(8)
The Mediterranean diet reduces your risk of developing heart disease and cancer. Therefore, it reduces your risk of death by 20%.(8)
This diet is high in fiber content. This is important because it digests slowly. This prevents large differences in blood sugar which helps to decrease the chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
There is more to the Mediterranean diet than the food that is eaten. It is also encouraged that families have regular meals together. Research shows that family meals relieve stress and provide comfort. It also is a good way to monitor eating habits. Studies show that eating with others prevents overeating. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet focuses on lunch as the largest meal of the day. Furthermore, you should get plenty of exercise.
The Mediterranean diet is very beneficial for many reasons. If you have heart issues you should consider converting to this diet. It will help you physically, mentally, and emotionally as well.