Is the Mediterranean Diet Heart Healthy?

April 15, 2013

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Mediterranean DietIn the dieting world, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. It’s hard to keep track of every fad diet out there—liquid diets, the caveman diet, zero-carb diets—and the list goes on. Each claims to be the best diet out there, guaranteeing quick results, but one diet plan in particular caught my attention because it may be onto something: the Mediterranean diet.

What is it?

The Mediterranean diet claims its fame by boasting heart-healthy benefits. It encourages a diet high in plant-based foods and healthy fats, including olive oil, tree nuts, peanuts, legumes, white meat, red wine, fresh fruit, and vegetables. It discourages foods high in fat and sodium, including fried foods, commercial bakery goods, red meat, and soda.

The diet is based on the cooking style and fresh foods available in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, emphasizing physical activity and enjoying an overall healthy lifestyle.

It sounds like this diet has all the components of a well-balanced plan and active lifestyle, and hey, I’ll give it bonus points for allowing wine. Does it actually work?

The research, thus far, is promising. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts, can be beneficial for those who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study assigned high-risk patients (those who were overweight, diabetic, smokers) with one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a diet that instructed patients simply to reduce fat.

The results show that those who followed one of the two Mediterranean diets cut the incidences of major cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke, by about 30 percent.

Should I try it?

Before you start any weight loss plan, you should consult a trained physician. A CMWL doctor can determine if following a Mediterranean-based plan is right for you.

For my patients whose heart health is at risk, I recommend wine at meals and a diet that consists of many legumes. A heart-healthy diet also limits the amount of low-fat dairy, bread, pasta, and potatoes.

This study is stepping stone in the case for living an overall healthy lifestyle. Yes, calories matter. You can’t consume 3,000 calories a day and expect to lose weight (unless you’re an Olympic athlete). Rather, the Mediterranean diet focuses on enjoying high-quality food, which is in line with the mission of the CMWL program. In fact, it’s not a diet at all; it’s a lifestyle.

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