Try a Delicious Alternative

Health Alert 25

The scientific community is finally coming around to the idea that the Mediterranean tradition of eating is not only easy and delicious but also the best way for you to protect yourself from heart disease.

It’s not a new plan. This plan has been around for centuries. There are no special pre-packaged foods to buy. There are no scales to measure out grams and the food choices are varied and delicious.

The traditional Mediterranean diet allows for a wide range of natural, whole foods. It has five main features.

* Olive oil is used liberally for cooking and seasoning.

* Fish is a frequent main course.

* A variety of fruits and vegetables are eaten fresh daily.

* Real tree nuts are commonly consumed with meals.

* Moderate alcohol is consumed daily usually wine and usually with meals.

The approach is simple. There are no radical food changes. The Mediterranean diet only requires a swing towards choosing different real whole foods. But the fat and alcohol consumption typical in Mediterranean diets has spurred criticism from “nutrition experts” and the AMA.

* Fats Can Be Good For Your Heart*

The Mediterranean diet does not limit fat consumption. But, it is naturally very low in saturated and polyunsaturated fat. Healthy fats are most common in the diet.

Monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and lower high blood pressure. One great source of monounsaturated fat is olive oil. Olive oil is a staple in any Mediterranean’s diet.

Nuts are also a good source of monounsaturated fats. The Seventh Day Adventist Study proved that people who eat nuts more than 4 times a week lowered their risk of developing coronary artery disease by 50%.

Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have long been associated with heart health. The GISSI Prevenzione study found that patients given 850 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day cut their risk of sudden cardiac death by 45%.

Fish is abundant in the Mediterranean diet. Other good sources of omega-3’s found in the diet include vegetables, flaxseed, and walnuts.

The 1999 Lyon Diet Heart Study studied 605 heart-attack survivors. Participants ate a Mediterranean diet or an “average” control diet for 4 years. People who followed the Mediterranean plan had a 55% reduced risk of cardiac death and a 50-70% decrease in all cardiac events

* Eat, Drink, and Be Heart Healthy *

The Mediterranean diet embraces moderate alcohol consumption. Moderate alcohol drinking (two drinks per day) has been linked with heart benefits. You read about this in Health Alert 24.

People living in Greece, Southern France and Southern Italy have the right idea. Their diets have many of the same effects as some of the successful modern fad diets like the Atkins, Zone and Carb Addict’s diets. But because they evolved through cultures over hundreds of years, they taste a whole lot better. And they are much easier to stick to.

Eat Mediterranean and your heart, waistline and palate will thank you.

Al Sears, MD