MEDITERRANEAN DIET IS NOT JUST A SIMPLE WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM, IT IS A WAY OF LIFE.
Fish instead of fried chicken. Brown rice instead of a white-flour roll. A handful of nuts instead of chips. Olive oil instead of butter. And plenty of vegetables and fruit. Easy food swaps like these put the heart-healthy, life-extending power of the Mediterranean diet on your plate—simply and deliciously.
Just how much impact can diet have? A Mediterranean style of eating reduced heart disease risk by 28 to 30 percent in a large 2013 study from Spain. But you don’t have to live near the Mediterranean to get the benefits. In a 2013 study that tracked a diverse group of 6,229 American women and men, ages 44 to 84, for eight years, Johns Hopkins researchers and others found that a Mediterranean-style diet combined with regular exercise, a healthy weight, and not smoking protected against early heart disease, slowed the build-up of plaque in artery walls, and reduced risk for an early death by 80 percent.
THE POWER OF YOUR MEDITERRANEAN PLATE
“Our study shows us that you have the control and power to change the trajectory of your health and life,” says lead study author and Johns Hopkins expert Haitham Ahmed, M.D., M.P.H. “With a healthier diet, exercise, weight maintenance and smoking avoidance, thousands of our participants were able to live longer and free of cardiovascular disease. You can too!”
Mediterranean-style eating aids your heart in four ways:
- It helps keep cholesterol levels healthy.
- It enhances your body’s ability to absorb blood sugar (diabetes and prediabetes threaten your heart’s health).
- It cools off damaging inflammation, an immune system response triggered when the body fights perceived intruders. Acute, or one-time, inflammation is helpful in fighting viruses and bacteria, but people who are overweight, consume high levels of refined foods, and lead a sedentary lifestyle have chronic, or ongoing, inflammation, which may lead to diabetes and liver and heart disease.
- It helps arteries stay flexible and resist plaque buildups.
Nutrients in this plan work as a team to produce these benefits. These include “good” monounsaturated fat from nuts and olive oil; beneficial omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish like salmon; and fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protective phytochemicals from whole grains and produce.
“What you don’t eat is also important,” Ahmed notes. “Large amounts of refined carbohydrates [such as sweets and white bread] can cause blood sugar spikes, which prompt the body to store fat in a different way and can lead to obesity and diabetes. Saturated fats [found in whole milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, fatty meats and poultry skin] can affect your cholesterol. All these harmful effects increase your risk of heart disease tremendously.”
MOVING TO THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET ONE STEP AT A TIME.
- “Add one healthy item to replace an unhealthy item,”
- “Stick with it for three weeks, then make two more changes. Slow and steady wins the race.”
Take your diet to the Mediterranean with a few simple changes.
- Try oatmeal with fresh fruit and a splash of fat-free milk for breakfast instead of bacon and eggs or pancakes.
- Start lunch with a vegetable salad, dressed with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Have fruit for dessert after dinner.