When it comes to a heart healthy diet, people are increasingly turning to the fiber rich Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean Diet is based on olive oil, fish, legumes, fruits and vegetables. It's all natural with no chemical additives. Essentially, its natural and simple. Not only is this diet looked into for trimming down the waistline, it is also recommended for people who want to improve their cholesterol levels, avoid diabetes or avoid complications arising from diabetes. It is also said to help avoid Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. Many consider the Mediterranean diet the healthiest in the world.
This diet originates from the diet of people living around the Mediterranean basin, particularly those in Spain, Italy and Greece. The Mediterranean lifestyle combines a healthy array of foods with much physical work and a laid-back disposition in life which translates to less stress. The concentation in the Meditarranean region is on a fiber rich diet that is comprised of low amounts of saturated fats, while fish provides a source of omega-3 fatty acids, a powerful antioxidant which protects cells in the body. People in this region also regularly consume red wine, which has antioxidant properties.
For people who are thinking about adopting the Mediterranean diet, here are some basics to live by:
Use high amounts of olive oil. Olive oil has high amounts of monosaturated fats such as oleic acid, fats that improve the number of “good cholesterol” in the body while reducing “bad cholesterol”. Oleic acid has also been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases. The Mediterranean diet stresses the need to choose good fats over bad fat sources, and not eliminating it altogether. Animal fats such as lard and butter should be substituted with olive oil instead, or other plant based oils such as canola oil.
High consumption of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber which is essential in good digestion. Dietary fiber has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Soluble fiber also lower bad cholesterol while regulating blood glucose levels.
Consumption of legumes and whole grains. Eating whole grains and legumes provides an individual with all the necessary amino acids that he needs. Legumes include pinto beans, mung beans, dal, lentils, peas and peanuts. Whole grain products can be whole wheat pastas, breads, oatmeal, etc.
High consumption of fish and limited consumption of meat products. Fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring etc. are the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Processed meats should be avoided and consumption of red meats should be minimized.
Occasional consumption of milk, cheeses and eggs. Milk and cheeses are also part of the Mediterranean diet but cheeses should be consumed in moderation. Eggs are recommended to be taken not more than four times a week.
Consumption of nuts as snacks. Instead of digging into a bag of potato chips, why not snack on nuts? Nuts are packed with good fats, but should also be consumed in moderation because they can be high in calories. A snack serving should not exceed a handful.
Consumption of red wine, one or two small glasses a day. Red wine has been shown to reduce incidences of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. Wine contains the compound resveratrol, which has cardioprotective and chemoprotective effects based on studies conducted on animals. The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of wine with meals.