Are you at risk for heart disease? If so, your doctor has likely discussed with you the benefits of making changes to your lifestyle. Diet and exercise were likely brought up to you.
The Mediterranean Diet is a diet that was originally based on foods eaten by people who reside in Greece, Crete, and southern Italy, but today, dishes from Spain, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, and Morocco are also recognized in this dieting plan. People residing in these regions have lower incidences of heart disease and live longer. This has been attributed to the types of foods they consume.
Why Choose the Mediterranean Diet to Thwart Heart Disease
One study found that people who were at risk for the devastating effects of heart disease lowered their risk by 30% simply by choosing to change to a Mediterranean diet. The participants in the study consumed fruits, fish, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil, which are core foods eaten by those in the Mediterranean region.
If you are at risk for heart disease due to genetic disposition, you will appreciate the fact that consuming raw plant-based foods like those found in Mediterranean diet has been shown to significantly reduce the genetic variants for heart disease. This type of diet has also been shown to be effective at reducing the risk of other debilitating illnesses such as cancer and type-2 diabetes.
Tips for Transitioning to the Mediterranean Diet
- Drink with moderation in mind. This means no more than two drinks a day, preferably wine with a meal or two.
- Toss out butter and bread spreads. If they are not in your refrigerator, you will not be tempted to use them during meal preparation. Replace these options with virgin olive oil, which can be used for cooking, baking, making salad dressing, and even dipping sauce for bread. For example, you can mix virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for bread dip, and the same mixture also tastes great on salad. This is healthier than consuming the saturated fats found in salad dressings and butter. Your heart and taste buds will "thank you."
- Beware of cravings. Save red meat and sweet indulgences for special occasions due to their unhealthy fat contents. If you crave a steak, try to choose a lean cut such as a sirloin or strip steak.
- Explore new fruits and vegetables. You are encouraged to eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can. You likely have some favorites, but trying new ones will ensure that what you eat does not become boring, which could result in you having an unhealthy eating binge.
- Perhaps you are accustomed to having chips, crackers, and candy for snacks throughout the day. Control the urge to eat chips with nuts or seeds. Low-fat cheese is a good option if you want to feel fuller. Consume fruit when sugar attacks settle in. The idea behind these suggestions is eliminating the consumption of processed sugars, saturated fats and trans-fats.
Your doctor is a good resource to use if you would like to try the Mediterranean diet as a means of lowering your cholesterol or reducing your chances of acquiring heart disease. This is also the best way to determine if the diet is working for you if you try it. Doctors at places like ICE, Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence can use a number of tests, which include blood pressure monitoring and cholesterol tests to determine efficacy.