Nowadays, we think that following a diet is a restriction that we put on ourselves to achieve various goals. But the Mediterranean diet is not like that!
It is a heart-healthy diet consisting of traditional foods in Greece, Italy, and other places near the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of plant-based foods and other Italian or Greek foods.
In combination with healthy habits, moderate exercise, and no bad habits(smoking or too much drinking), the Mediterranean diet offers an affordable, balanced, and health-promoting lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet is mostly recommended to improve heart health.
This article provides basic knowledge and guidelines for the Mediterranean diet; it is not written in stone. You can make changes and adjust them based on your preferences and individual needs.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
Whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and other plant-based foods are the foundation of this diet. Fish, seafood, poultry, and dairy foods can also be included but in moderation.
The primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil, and it provides monounsaturated fats, which are responsible for lowering total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels. They consist of healthy fats such as unhealthy ones such as mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, and other fatty fish which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, trans fats, refined oils, added sugar, processed meat, and other processed foods are not strictly included in the Mediterranean diet.
Get started with your Mediterranean diet with these heart-healthy tips
- Consume fish at least twice a week
- When planning meals, focus mainly on whole grains, beans and vegetables
- Use olive oil to prepare foods instead of butter
- Consume red meat and other sweets rarely
- Do not add more salt to your food when you are about to eat, there is already plenty in your food
- 1 or 2 glasses of red wine per day are enough
- Consume fresh fruit as dessert
Benefits of Mediterranean diet
- It mostly benefits your heart health by decreasing the risk of heart diseases and strokes.
- It lowers bad cholesterol levels and reduces mortality from cardiovascular conditions.
- It can reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and some cancers like breast cancer, colon cancer, and gastric cancer.
- It can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
- It can lower systolic blood pressure.
- It can improve sleep quality in older adults.
- It is useful for losing weight as it is low in sugars and contains monounsaturated fats.
- It improves blood sugar control which can be an excellent way to manage diseases.
- It reduces the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty in older people.
- It reduces the risk of premature death and promotes a healthy retirement, free from long-term medication and diseases.
- It boosts brain health and may slow down cognitive decline.
- It is good for your gut and promotes healthy weight management.
- It may benefit people with arthritis.
- It can positively impact bone and muscle mass in postmenopausal women.
- It increases your life span and may improve your physical performance.
Top 4 diets to follow for a healthy heart
#1 DASH Diet
The DASH in the DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It was designed to treat and prevent hypertension or high blood pressure. Unlike the Mediterranean diet, you do not have to follow a strict food list; you just have to consume specific amounts of various food groups.
Depending on your weight and calorie intake, you can eat high-fibre foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. If you reduce your sodium intake, you will significantly reduce your blood pressure.
This diet can reduce cholesterol levels, waist circumference, obesity, and other heart disease risk factors.
#2 Mediterranean Diet
The main topic of today’s article, the Mediterranean diet stands as the second best diet to follow for a healthy heart. This diet consists of plant-based foods, fishes and other foods such as cheese, poultry, eggs, and yoghurt in moderation.
Based on a review where 11 students who followed a Mediterranean diet had a reduced risk of developing heart diseases and mortality by 40%.
#3 Ornish Diet
This diet was created to help people feel better, live longer, and lose weight. Its work is to help reverse chronic disease and enhance health. It is a low-fat, plant-based diet consisting of legumes, whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
This diet limits animal products, caffeinated beverages, sugar, alcohol, processed ingredients, refined carbs and high-fat foods. It may increase weight loss, aid disease prevention and is easy to follow.
It is ideal for vegetarian people as meat, fish and poultry are not included in the diet.
#4 Flexitarian Diet
This diet mainly focuses on plant foods, but meat, dairy, fish, and other animal products are also included in moderation. Unlike the Ornish diet, you do not have to give up on meat and other animal products, you can still consume them.
It is good for heart health and weight loss. It can also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers such as collateral cancer.
It encourages you to consume plant proteins that benefit not only your health but also the environment.
DASH Diet VS Mediterranean Diet
According to the US News and World Health Report, there is a tie between the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet for being the best heart-healthy diet. Both of them are certified beneficial for heart health in their unique ways.
The only difference between them is that the Mediterranean Diet promotes less dairy and more fish than the DASH Diet. This quality of the Mediterranean Diet is what makes it the best diet overall.
Despite the enormous differences, all diets avoid sugar, highly processed foods, saturated fats, and refined grains. Before following the Mediterranean Diet or any other diet, consult a doctor and determine if it’s good for your body.
Diet is just one part of the equation. You also have to exercise regularly, quit smoking, and develop good habits.