The Mediterranean diet: 5 fast facts
The Mediterranean diet, part of a category known as heart-healthy diets, derives from culinary cultures of Greece, Spain and Italy. It is also a model for healthy, balanced and communal eating. Below are five things to know before diving in.
- Increase heart-healthy foods: This diet emphasizes increased intake of legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and olive oil. It also allows for moderate consumption of fish and poultry, with very limited red meat, processed foods and salt.
- Drink alcohol in moderation: The Mediterranean diet allows for moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine as it is associated with a reduced risk for heart disease. Typically, women should limit consumption to one glass (or five ounces) a day, and men should drink no more than two glasses (10 ounces) per day.
“This diet is successful and beneficial because it emphasizes healthy fats and proteins, like legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil,” says Jay Mohan, DO, chief cardiology fellow at McLaren Macomb-Oakland Medical Centers. “Using these foods in place of simple carbohydrates and saturated fats will boost energy, shed weight and ultimately prevent heart disease.”
One study found people who eat a Mediterranean diet were 30 percent less likely to experience a major cardiac event than those on a reduced-fat diet.
- Share meals with friends and family: Done properly, this diet doesn’t just change what’s on your plate, but who’s at your table. Rather than eating hurriedly, on the go, and alone, the Mediterranean diet prioritizes making mealtime an event to be shared with family and friends. The benefits associated with having a close, supportive group include a reduced risk of depression and stress, improved mood, self-confidence and resilience.
- A heart-healthy diet may reduce other risks: Researchers say one of the greatest benefits of heart-healthy diets is a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiac events. One study found people who eat a Mediterranean diet were 30 percent less likely to experience a major cardiac event than those on a reduced-fat diet. It is also linked to reduced risks for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
- The Mediterranean diet is affordable: Perhaps best of all, this is not an expensive or complicated diet, so even people with limited resources should be able to follow it and significantly improve their health. Experts consider the Mediterranean diet one of the most accessible and sustainable options due to its highly sensible balance and generous options for delicious meals.
“As an osteopathic physician and aspiring interventional cardiologist, my primary focus is on prevention,” says Dr. Mohan. “Because it is so thoroughly vetted through research, I can actually prescribe the Mediterranean diet to patients to help them avoid heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.”