Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Eating Plan

The Mediterranean diet was named the Best Diet Overall for 2019 by U.S. News. While this diet has landed at the top of the charts, it certainly isn’t anything new — it’s been around since the 1960s and is best known for its health benefits: longevity, weight loss, and disease prevention.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Mediterranean diet.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Leading nutrition scientists have studied the eating habits of Mediterranean people for
more than 60 years.

The core concept behind this diet is to eat like the people who live in the Mediterranean region. Fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, nuts,
and legumes and eat fish at least twice a week.

The Mediterranean Lifestyle

The Mediterranean lifestyle is not just about eating the right food, but also about incorporating exercise and relaxation into your day.

Instead of designating daily periods of time to jog or exercise, Mediterranean people engage in leisure physical activity, like walking and riding bikes.

It is important to savor your food during every meal and turn every meal into an excuse for a social occasion with friends and family. This lifestyle values human connection with others and includes lively conversations with friends and family instead of sitting in front of the TV, or checking phones.

How is the diet heart healthy?

Research shows that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease.

The diet is associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.

Following a Mediterranean diet limits your intake of refined bread, processed foods, and red meat, and encourages drinking red wine instead of hard liquor – all factors that can help prevent heart disease and stroke.

How is this diet different?

Unlike trademarked and commercialized diet plans that require books, calculations, and specific rules, the Mediterranean diet is more of a general eating pattern and lifestyle.

In this age of restrictive eating regimens like keto and paleo diets, the Mediterranean diet offers a long-term plan that is easy to follow. Unlike diets that seem to eliminate more ingredients than they allow, the Mediterranean diet serves more like a list of what you should eat more than what you shouldn’t. Its benefits aren’t limited to weight loss. Studies prove that the diet can help you live a longer, healthier life.

How to Follow the Mediterranean diet

Veggies: Eat 4 or more servings each day. A serving is 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked. Eat all types of kinds to add color to your diet to get the broadest range of nutrients. Cook, roast or garnish them with extra virgin olive oil.
Fruit: Eat 3 or more servings each day. Enjoy a piece of fruit with breakfast, lunch, snack or dessert.
Grains: 4 or more servings each day. 1 serving = 1 slice bread or ½ cup cooked oatmeal. Choose whole grain options.
Fats/oils: 4 Tablespoons of olive oil each day. Choose extra virgin olive oil and use it in salad dressing and cooking. Choose avocado or natural peanut butter instead of butter or margarine.
Fish and seafood: 2-3 times per week. Choose fish that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna.
Rein in the red meat: Substitute fish and poultry for red meat. Avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat meats.
Herbs and spices: Season foods with herbs, garlic, onions and spices instead of using salt.
Dairy: Eat dairy in moderation. Eat cheese and yogurt daily to weekly, in moderate proportions. Try Greek yogurt or egg whites instead.

Serving sizes should be individualized to meet energy and nutrient needs. Red meats, processed meats, and sweets should be limited.