Eating a Mediterranean diet may lower your risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease by up to 30 percent, according to a new, highly publicized study out of Spain recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
When older adult participants (ages 55 to 80) were divided into one of three groups – Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil, Mediterranean diet with nuts or a control diet – those who followed either of the Mediterranean diets reaped the heart-protective benefits.
You can start eating the Mediterranean diet by adding these key foods:
1. Olive oil: The study participants’ main culinary fat was olive oil, which they made their primary “fat” for cooking and baking, swapping it in for butter when possible.
2. Nuts: Study participants ate three or more servings of nuts (including peanuts) weekly, and were encouraged to eat a daily serving of mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts). To incorporate nuts, which are packed with heart-healthy fats, into your diet, try trading your afternoon snack for a small handful of nuts (remember, they’re calorie-dense).
3. Fish: Mediterranean-diet followers ate three-plus servings of fish or shellfish weekly. Aim to add fish of any kind – except for fried – and especially the oily ones, such as salmon or tuna, rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
4. Legumes: Study participants reported eating three or more servings of beans, peas and lentils, which are a good meat replacement because they’re a great vegetarian source of protein and deliver fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium.
5. Fresh fruits: Fruits are also an important part of the diet. Followers consumed three-plus fruit servings daily. Add fruit to your diet in many ways: mix it into a salad or oatmeal, top your yogurt with fruit or just snack on it plain.
6. Fresh vegetables: Study participants reported eating two or more servings of vegetables each day – and at least one serving featured raw vegetables or a salad. Start your day out by adding vegetables to an omelet.
7. Sofrito: Sofrito is a sauce made with tomato and onion and often includes garlic and herbs. It’s slowly simmered with olive oil and is typically used to season vegetables, pasta and rice. Mediterranean diet followers said they ate sofrito two or more times per week.
8. White meat: Subjects weren’t told how much meat to eat but were encouraged to eat white meat instead of red meat (think: chicken or turkey breast instead of veal, pork, hamburger or sausage).
9. Wine: Mediterranean-diet followers drink wine with meals. Study participants reported drinking seven or so glasses per week, or about one drink a day.