The Secrets of the Mediterranean Diet and Heart Health

Monday July 7, 2014

Looking to reduce your risk for heart disease? Well, the Mediterranean Diet might just be the lifestyle change you’re looking for.

Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet is consistently beneficial when looking at reducing heart disease risk. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine followed participants who were at a high risk for heart disease for five years.

These participants were assigned to one of three diets. Diet #1 participants followed a Mediterranean diet plus had home deliveries of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)—must be nice, right? Diet #2 participants followed the Mediterranean diet plus added nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Diet #3 participants simply followed a low fat diet.

And what did the study find? The participants who followed diets #1 and #2 had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who followed the low fat diet. Those following diet #1 consumed 120 calories worth of EVOO (4 tsp) every day and those in diet #2 ate ¼ cup nuts daily. Well it turns out that the good fats that those in the Mediterranean region eat daily can be beneficial to us all!

What are the secrets to the Mediterranean lifestyle, you ask?

An active lifestyle, weight control, a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat plus a diet high in fruits and veggies, nuts, olive oil, seafood, beans, whole grains, and water.  Moderate consumption of poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt, and top it off with a splash of red wine (if you so desire).

So cheers to a spoonful of olive oil, half a plate of veggies, a handful of nuts, and a flaky piece of grilled fish!

To learn more about this diet or if you have any other nutrition questions, contact the dietitians at the UNC Wellness Center for more information.

Reference: Estruch Ramon et al. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. N Engl J Med. 2013; 386: 1279-90.