A Mediterranean diet can be a great heart-healthy choice. It eliminates highly processed, fast foods and focuses on whole grains and healthy fats.
The diet also includes a variety of fish and other protein-rich foods. Fatty fish are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
The diet limits saturated fat and trans fats, which can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and lead to inflammation. It encourages the use of vegetable oils rich in unsaturated fats like olive oil.
Heart Disease Prevention
A Mediterranean diet focuses on whole foods, fruits and vegetables. It incorporates low-fat dairy, eggs, nuts and beans. It includes red wine in moderation. And it excludes processed and ultra-processed foods, saturated fats and trans fats.
Lean fish is a major component of the Mediterranean diet, particularly those rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are good choices. Canned tuna and salmon are also healthy and can be enjoyed in place of fresh fish a few times each week.
The main source of fat in a Mediterranean diet is olive oil. It’s full of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This helps lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and improves blood triglyceride levels. It also reduces inflammation and inhibits clotting.
A Mediterranean diet can be a great way to help prevent heart disease, especially for those at high risk. This is because the diet’s focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, nuts and fish can improve your risk factors for heart disease. But it’s important to remember that regular exercise is also critical for heart health.
Improved Cholesterol Levels
The diet is low in saturated and trans fats, and high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. In addition, it promotes regular exercise and social interaction with family and friends.
Eggs, poultry and low-fat dairy are the main protein sources. Fish is also a major component of the Mediterranean diet, as well as beans and legumes. While red meat is not a staple of the Mediterranean diet, those who choose to eat it do so in moderation.
A defining feature of the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. It’s rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, which can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Try to use it in place of butter or other unhealthy oils when cooking, baking or sautéing.
The Mediterranean diet is a balance of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and healthy plant-based fats like olive oil. While fresh foods are ideal, frozen and canned varieties can be a great option as well—just make sure that they don’t contain added sugar or sodium.
Blood Pressure Regulation
The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, especially olive oil and unsaturated “good” fats (like avocados and nuts) but also lean protein, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. This combination has been linked to reduced heart disease risk and longer life expectancy in observational and randomized controlled trial data.
The diet limits red meat, while allowing poultry and fish in small portions a few times each week. The diet is low in added sugar and offers moderate amounts of dairy and eggs. It also emphasizes a variety of vegetables and herbs, as well as nuts and beans.
The diet discourages processed meats, which are high in saturated and trans fats, and encourages fresh, unprocessed foods, such as fish, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The diet includes modest quantities of sweets and alcohol, with women drinking no more than one glass daily and men drinking no more than two glasses. Regular physical activity is encouraged, too. Try dancing, gardening, yoga or online exercise videos for an enjoyable way to get your body moving.
Reduced Risk of Stroke
The Mediterranean diet limits red meat and instead relies on a combination of plant-based fats, like olive oil, as well as fish, beans and eggs. It also emphasizes whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Those who follow the Mediterranean diet may have a lower risk of stroke, according to recent research.
In a study of people at high risk for heart disease, those who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of stroke than those who did not. This reduction in stroke risk was even seen in women. The researchers were surprised by the findings.
Try to incorporate some of the foods from the Mediterranean diet into your meals, but be sure to remove processed and ultra-processed foods, added sugars, saturated fats and trans fats. Instead, add olive oil to salad dressings and use it on cooked vegetables and pastas. Eat fatty fish, like salmon or mackerel, at least twice a week and eat more beans, olives, nuts and whole grains. Include a few servings of fruits and limit sweets, especially those high in sugar.
A Mediterranean diet is high in healthy fats, especially monounsaturated fats from olive oil and nuts. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the body and decrease triglycerides. The plan typically includes fish, especially fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon. A study found that people on the Mediterranean diet had higher levels of endothelial progenitor cells than those eating a low-fat diet.
The diet is low in processed foods and sweets. Red meat, sugary drinks and fried foods are only consumed occasionally. Aim for seven to ten servings of fruit and vegetables per day, including leafy greens. Choose whole grains over refined ones, such as bulgur and farro. Add more protein from eggs, poultry and low-fat dairy and limit red meat to a few ounces per week.
The diet also promotes wine, preferably red, in moderate amounts with meals. Olive oil, specifically extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), is recommended because of its healthy fat ratio and anti-inflammatory properties. It is rich in phenolic acid, which has been shown to decrease oxidative stress and improve endothelial function.
Enhanced Endothelial Function
The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. The diet also includes fish and poultry and limits red meat. It also contains healthy fats, like olive oil and unsweetened yogurt, but limits saturated and trans fat. The diet typically includes wine in moderation.
Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and tuna are staples of the Mediterranean diet. They are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean diet also includes a variety of lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, eggs and cheese. Red and highly-processed meats are consumed rarely or as a special treat.
Start by removing processed foods, added sugars and saturated and trans fats from your diet. Then, try to incorporate the following Mediterranean diet tips into your daily meals:
Lowered Risk of Cardiovascular Events
The Mediterranean diet is rich in heart-healthy fats like olive oil and nuts. It also emphasizes fiber, antioxidants and polyphenols. Besides cardiovascular benefits, the diet may also help prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline, as well as help control type-2 diabetes.
The diet limits red meat and highly processed foods, while focusing on fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It also focuses on healthy sources of fat, such as olive oil, avocados and nuts. It also includes dairy, such as yogurt and cheese, in moderation.
The MedDiet also encourages people to slow down and enjoy meals with family and friends. By taking the time to eat, you can tune into your body’s hunger and fullness signals, making it easier to lose weight. It also encourages regular physical activity, such as dancing, gardening, yoga or even just walking to get around instead of driving. Lastly, the diet allows for a moderate amount of alcohol each day. It’s important to talk with a dietitian about your individual needs and goals before starting the Mediterranean diet.
A Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy way to live. The key is to avoid red meat, opt for poultry and fish instead, and enjoy plant-based foods like vegetables, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains. This eating plan is also a good source of “good” monounsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids and protective polyphenols.
The diet is low in sodium, sugary drinks and trans fats, and moderate in red wine (if you drink). It aims to keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check while improving overall cardiovascular health. It also helps manage diabetes and may prevent dementia, depression and cancers. It may even help alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
When following the Mediterranean diet, cook from scratch using fresh produce and healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil. Make a habit of sitting down to enjoy meals with loved ones, and try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. Dancing, gardening and online yoga videos are all great options for getting your recommended amount of physical activity. A dietitian can help you modify the Mediterranean diet based on your medical history, underlying conditions, preferences and allergies.