The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is unlike other popular diets. Americans think of diets in terms of restrictions: no fat, carbs, sugar, or meat. But the Mediterranean diet focuses on the pleasures of eating. It advocates healthy foods, yes, but with a splash of oil and a glass of wine.
Mediterranean Diet Benefits
Experts at the Mayo Clinic say research links the Mediterranean diet to reduced risks of heart attack, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Most scientific organizations recommend the traditional Mediterranean eating style for most people.
In addition to chronic disease prevention, the diet has several other health-boosting qualities. Not only does it promote weight loss, but the Mediterranean diet also controls blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin, and cholesterol levels. This contributes to a longer life expectancy than that of most Western diets.
Mediterranean Diet Foods
Practically vegetarian, Mediterranean meals emphasize fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Nine servings of fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, is typical. Tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, eggplant, peppers, capers, mushrooms, and legumes are diet mainstays. Herbs and spices make the meals tasty, and slow-cooking crock pot recipes turn out savory Mediterranean stews.
Mediterranean cooking uses cholesterol-lowering olive oil as the primary fat source. The less processed forms, “virgin” and “extra virgin,” also contain healthy antioxidants. Fatty fish, another mainstay in Mediterranean meals, provides valuable Omega-3 fatty acids for improved heart health. Mediterranean people eat very little red meat, but some of their meals include spicy chicken recipes.
High-calorie nuts, eaten in moderation, are an important component of the Mediterranean diet. And the diet is famous for its whole grain bread, eaten plain or dipped in flavorful olive oil. Low fat cheese and yogurt are healthy dairy options.
Wine, in moderate amounts, also plays a role in this heart-healthy diet. Purple grape juice is a good nonalcoholic alternative. The Mediterranean diet is a healthy, pleasurable way to eat. Most people who switch to this eating style never look back.