This article provides an overview of the much talked about Mediterranean diet. We explore the overall benefits and what a day of this type of eating looks like. In particular we will explore how a Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
What is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease includes a group of disorders that effect our heart and blood vessels. When you have cardiovascular disease, blockages can occur in blood vessels. These blockages prevents blood flowing to our brain and heart, which causes heart attacks and strokes.
What is a Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is based off the traditional eating habits of those surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (Spain, Italy, Greece, and southern France). This diet is predominantly plant based with moderate amounts of seafood, olive oil and alcohol.
Eating in this way has been found to provide a range of possible health benefits. These include improving cardiovascular health, and reduced risk of diabetes and some cancers. It is also a wonderful way to share a healthy meal with family and friends.
What Foods Are In A Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet includes a variety of healthy foods and is predominately plant based. The diet is made up of:
Plant foods (fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts, and seeds), which is the main component
Seafood (white fish, salmon etc) in moderate amounts
Dairy foods (milk, yoghurt, cheese) in minimal amounts
Alcohol (mostly red wine) intake in low-moderate amounts
Olive oil consumed regularly
Red and other meats in minimal amounts
Main Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
Apart from being delicious, this diet has been found to be beneficial for reducing the risk of a number of serious diseases and health conditions, including:
Cardiovascular disease - it can contribute to a reduction in cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Hypertension - it reduces blood pressure.
Diabetes- less risk of developing type 2 diabetes and better glycemic control in those who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Osteoporosis- it can reduce the rate of bone loss in individuals who have osteoporosis or are at risk of osteoporosis.
Cancers- Can lower the risk of some cancers, in particular colorectal, liver and breast cancer.
Cognitive function- this diet is associated with less age-related cognitive impairment and reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
Cardiovascular Disease and the Mediterranean Diet
Our heart health is significantly affected by our fat intake and the Mediterranean diet has the right balance of good and not so good fats. It is naturally rich in monounsaturated fats (our good fats) from the olive oil, nuts and seeds, whilst also being low in saturated fats (our not so good fats) due to limiting the intake of red meats and discretionary foods. This is why it is such a good way to eat for our heart health.
This way of eating is also high in phytosterols and fibre. Phytosterols have a similar structure to cholesterol, and when we consume these, they block cholesterol from being absorbed. Phytosterols are found in nuts, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables - all foods that the Mediterranean diet is rich in.
The Mediterranean Food Pyramid
This pyramid provides a visual representation of the eating habits of the Mediterranean diet. As you can see, there are daily serves of plant foods and minimal amounts of meats and discretionary foods.
A Sample Daily Menu
Breakfast- Multigrain toast with eggs cooked in extra virgin olive oil, grilled tomato and feta cheese.
Lunch - Tuna salad sandwich, including green leafy vegetables and a small amount of olive oil.
Dinner - Soup made with lentils, vegetables (zucchini, carrot, tomato, onion, mixed herbs, garlic), and olive oil.
Snacks - Greek yogurt and berries, nuts or fruit.
Overall, the Mediterranean diet can be beneficial in reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease. A greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been scientifically proven to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. If this diet sounds like it something you would enjoy, it may be worth having a go at implementing some of the foods into your diet!
Please contact us if you or a loved one has a health condition that requires professional dietary advice. Our team of allied health professionals can assist you in managing your condition and helping you set and meet your health goals. Contact us on 9456 5199 to make an appointment with our mobile Sunshine Coast dietitian.