A Heart-Healthy Mediterranean Diet

It is a fact that people who live in countries surrounding the Mediterranean have a longer than average life span. According to mayoclinic.com, “Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.” 

Many fitness-focused enthusiasts enjoy the Mediterranean diet because these foods are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber which also help to reduce inflammation, build muscle and lose fat.

The 7-10 servings of carbohydrates in this plan are primarily derived from vegetables and fruit. They include the vegetables of tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, carrots, asparagus, parsnips, celery, endive, spinach, peas, potatoes, squash, turnips, onions, garlic, and leeks which play off and embellish the nutrition of each other at every meal. Fruits are encouraged in place of sugary sweets, and minimally processed whole grains are used to produce energy and fiber to your day.

The Mediterranean diet includes proteins from fish, shellfish (at least three days per week), eggs, and meat are included in small portions. Plant sources of protein are celebrated in beans, legumes, lentils, chickpeas, hummus and butter beans. These are a great source of nutrient-rich carbohydrates.

Small amounts of dairy are included, but more toward protein-rich Greek yogurt instead of ice cream. Lower fat cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta and feta are often used.

Nuts and seeds are another source of plant-protein, in moderate servings, which are a great source of healthy fats.

The healthy oils are their signature ingredient. Extra-virgin olive oil is a staple in Mediterranean cooking. It’s rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and adds flavor to the food. Grapeseed oil is lighter and perfect for salad dressings. Avocado and olives provide more healthy oils. Utilizing fresh herbs and spices while cooking, and on raw vegetables, adds flavor without calories.

The Mediterranean diet typically includes a moderate amount of wine, usually red wine, at no more than 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine daily for women of all ages and men older than age 65 and no more than 10 ounces (296 milliliters) of wine daily for younger men. More than this may increase the risk of health problems, including increased risk of certain types of cancer.

I include these foods in my cooking because my body responds well to all the aspects of the flavor-rich food choices. It may be right for you, as well.

 

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