Heart disease accounts for 30% of deaths worldwide, making it one of the top killers in the world. But, don’t let those statistics scare you. There is a way to combat heart disease, and it starts in the kitchen! A Mediterranean Diet has been proven to lower the risk of both men and women for both heart disease and cancer. These findings, according to a 2007 study held in the United States, offer a delicious path to health based on good, clean foods, not medication.
The key components of a Mediterranean Diet are:
- Eat generous portions of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Eat and cook with healthy fats, such as Extra Virgin or Virgin Olive Oil
- Eat moderate portions of whole grains
- Flavor your foods using Spices and Herbs versus Salt
- Limit your consumption of red meat
- Enjoy heart healthy fats found in nuts eaten in moderation
- If able, savor small amounts of red wine
- Eat fish and/or shellfish once or twice a week
Eating fresh Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, and Whole Grains
A diet rich in antioxidant packed fresh fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. This “bad” cholesterol is the kind that builds up deposits in the arteries and eventually leads to complications including heart attacks.
Nuts, though high in fat, contain a healthy fat. Tree nuts, specifically almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans, contain very little of the unhealthy saturated fats found in many processed foods. An appropriate portion of tree nuts would be about a handful a day.
Whole Grains are an important part of any diet. Whole Grains can include whole wheat breads and pasta, oats, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat/kasha, and teff, to name a few. These grains provide the body with a healthy source of complex carbohydrates that are low in starches and great source of energy!
Eat Your Fats
Diets that include healthy amounts of unsaturated fats, which include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, are directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease. It is not about restricting your fat intake, as it is about choosing wisely the kinds of fats you put in to your body.
The fats found in Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oil are a wonderful, heart healthy option for cooking. Used in place of butter, it is a delicious source or “good” fats with no unhealthy hydrogenated oils (trans-fats). Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oils are also the least processed of the olive oils making them the best option.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, are another important fat to incorporate into your diet. These fats boost brain power, promote heart health, lower triglycerides (improving blood vessel health), and support healthy hair and nails. Omega-3 supplements are available in both a liquid and a pill form for those who do not like, or are allergic to, fish.
Red wine is contains antioxidants and aspirin-like qualities that reduce blood clotting. When enjoyed in moderation, it can have beneficial effects. It is recommended that women consume no more that 5 oz. a day, and men under 65 enjoy no more than 10 oz. daily.
If you have a history of heart of liver disease, it is best to avoid the consumption of alcohol.
To lower your risk for developing heart disease, adopting a Mediterranean style diet may be a wonderful option! A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains, healthy fats, and modest portions of red wine, sounds much better than struggling to swallow a chalky pill every day.
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