How a Mediterranean Diet Could Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
It is a well-known fact that your diet affects your heart health. Doctors often warn their patients to avoid certain foods in order to keep their cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels. Typically, diets must be adjusted, and whole food groups have to be cut out to maintain a healthy heart. However, one region’s everyday diet is now proving to be a heart-healthy choice across the board. The Mediterranean diet, which features vegetable and olive-oil-rich dishes, is now being recognized as a great option to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Study Linking Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease
A new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health focuses on the link between women’s heart health and a Mediterranean diet. Their research, which drew data from over 25,000 women, revealed that the women who primarily ate a Mediterranean-type diet had a 25 percent less chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
The team noted that this type of diet worked to lower the chances of heart disease by minimizing primary risk factors, including glucose metabolism, insulin resistance and inflammation. And while this study was performed on women, there is no reason to believe the results would not be similar in men.
“Our study has a strong public health message that modest changes in known cardiovascular disease risk factors contribute to the long-term benefit of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease risk,” says lead author Shafqat Ahmad, Ph.D.
What’s in a Mediterranean Diet?
For those looking to incorporate more Mediterranean foods into their diet, understanding the components can help making the switch a bit easier. The Mediterranean diet primarily consists of the following unprocessed foods:
Vegetables and Legumes
Veggies are a large part of the Mediterranean diet. Popular vegetables in this region include tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumbers. Leafy greens like kale and spinach are packed with fiber and nutrients. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams also appear often in Mediterranean dishes as a healthy, filling starches. Legumes, such as chickpeas, are often turned into hummus and served as a delicious dip. Beans, peas and lentils are other legumes often served with vegetables to add healthy fats and proteins in many Mediterranean dishes.
Apples, oranges, figs, pears, grapes, and dates are often seen in Mediterranean dishes, and they make great snacks throughout the day. Additionally, apples have been known to exponentially decrease one’s chance of heart disease all on their own.
Studies have shown that whole grain intake is consistently associated with improved cardiovascular disease outcomes, which makes them a perfect addition to this diet. Brown rice, rye, whole oats, buckwheat, whole-grain bread, and barley add healthy carbohydrates and fiber to many dishes in this genre.
Seafood and Poultry
It can be difficult to imagine a Mediterranean meal without seafood. Salmon, sardines, trout, clams, and shrimp are bountiful in the Mediterranean Sea and are full of heart-healthy proteins.
If you need something heartier hardier , chicken, turkey and duck are also commonly seen in Mediterranean meals, usually cooked in healthy fats like olive oil or avocado. Popular seasonings for these meats if you want to add a dash of flavor include rosemary, basil, mint, and garlic. These lean protein options are a great choice for anyone hoping to reduce their risk of heart disease and lose a little weight in the process.
Dairy is a large part of any Mediterranean diet due to the abundance of delicious cheeses, such as Feta, Parmigiano (Parmesan) and Manchego. Goat cheese and creamy Greek yogurt are also nutritious, yummy options. Sprinkle a touch of Feta on top of a Mediterranean-style salad or slice up some Mozzarella with tomatoes for the perfect finishing touch.
If finding heart-healthy recipes seems difficult or intimidating, perhaps the best place to look is in a Mediterranean cookbook or online. Of course, eating a healthy diet does not completely minimize your risk of heart disease. Exercise and regular visits with your cardiologist are also vital for your heart’s long-term health.