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- Mediterranean diet basics
- Fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Healthy fats
- Omega 3 fatty acids and fish
You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by adopting the practices followed in a traditional Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and monounsaturated fats (olive oil).
Here’s a quick breakdown of the characteristics common to a Mediterranean Diet:
- Consume high intake of fruits and vegetables
- Select whole grains
- Consume healthy fats (canola and olive oil)
- Eat nuts in moderation
- Low red wine consumption
- Limit eggs to less than 4 times per week
- Consume little red meat
- Eat fish regularly
A high intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains reduces LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol which leads to a build-up of arterial plaque. Grains in the Mediterranean region are whole grain with very little unhealthy trans fats and usually consumed without added butter or margarine.
Include monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats. Sources of these healthy fats include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and fish. The Mediterranean diet approach does not include a high saturated fat intake or trans fatty acids, both of which contribute to heart disease.
Olive oil – provides monounsaturated fat, which helps reduce LDL cholesterol. To receive the highest level of antioxidant benefits, select "extra-virgin" and "virgin" olive oils, the least processed forms. When you see the term “light” on olive oil labels, it indicates a reduced olive flavor.
Nuts – high in fat and calories, but low in saturated fat and depending on the nut you select can be a good source of heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids (i.e. walnuts). Eat in moderation due to high calorie content and limit the heavily salted nuts or honey roasted.
Red wine can have a similar affect to aspirin in that it reduces blood clotting. Red wine also contains antioxidants. If you already drink wine, continuing to do so in moderation (less than 5 ounces of wine per day) may be beneficial. If you do not currently consume wine, I do not recommend you start.
Increase your intake of heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which are linked to reduced triglycerides, reduced arterial inflammation, lower blood pressure, and high HDL (good) cholesterol. Include fish (I don’t mean battered and fried) as a regular part of your diet in place of the more typical red meats, use flaxseed in your diet, and consider an omega 3 supplement.
Lisa Nelson RD
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