Did you know people from Mediterranean countries—such as Spain, Greece, Italy and Croatia—have less heart disease, cancer and obesity? Do you know why? Diet and exercise.
The Mediterranean diet originates from foods found in the area bordering the Mediterranean Sea — primarily fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, and fish. The health effects of the Mediterranean diet have been studied for at least a decade.
In February, 2013, a five-year study published on The New England Journal of Medicine website confirms that “a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables” prevents 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease in people at high risk.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes exercise, consuming mostly plant-based foods, replacing butter with olive oil and canola oil and the use of herbs and spices to flavor food—instead of salt.
In the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid:
- The base of the diet comprises fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, herbs and spices.
- Fish and seafood are recommended often—at least two times per week
- Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt are suggested in moderate portions
- And meats and sweets are cautioned to just a few times a month.
Eat like the Mediterraneans
1. Replace the fat you use with olive oil. Olive oil is rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids that keep the arteries healthy.
2. Eat lots of vegetables. Many Mediterranean people eat a pound of vegetables every day. Green and colorful vegetables are low in calories and high in antioxidants.
3. Choose whole grains instead of processed grains.
4. Eat poultry and fish with omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart and brain. Bake or broil, don’t fry. Breaded and deep fried foods are not part of the Mediterranean tradition.
5. Limit red meat consumption.
6. Add legumes, beans and nuts to main dishes.
7. Enjoy fresh fruits as dessert and avoid sugary pastries, cakes and cookies.