The Mediterranean diet is making news again all over the place. Newest research confirms what we thought – a Mediterranean-style diet is a healthy way to eat, because it can help reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and even help to preserve memory.
Here’s a quick summary of three recent studies:
In February of this year, results of the PREDIMED study, which ran from 2003-2011 in Spain, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers studied the effects of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and olive oil on the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The study showed that participants whose diets were supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts had a 30 percent reduced risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Next came a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham which found that healthy people with an average age of 64, who ate a Mediterranean diet, were 19 percent less likely to develop problems with thinking and memory skills. Results are published in the April 30, 2013 issue of Neurology®.
Fast on the heels of that study came another study presented at an American Heart Association Scientific Session on May 1, 2013. Researchers at Laval University in Quebec studied men who were at higher risk for heart disease, and they determined that eating a Mediterranean diet resulted in a 9 percent decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol, regardless of any change in weight.
The traditional Mediterranean–style diet, and the diet that was used in each of these studies, is rich in fruits and vegetables and provides small servings of chicken, fish, or legumes for protein and nuts and olive oil for fat. Compared to the typical American diet, it is very low in red meat, refined sugar (and starches in general), and includes only two servings of low-fat dairy foods each day.
Here’s how it breaks down:
|Vegetables||4-6 servings/day||1 serving is: ½ cup cooked or raw OR 1 cup salad greens|
|Fruit||3-5 servings/day||1 serving is 1 piece or ½ cup fresh fruit OR ¼ cup dried fruit|
|Whole Grains||4-7 servings/day||1 serving is 1 slice bread or ½ cup cereal, pasta or rice|
|Meat & Poultry||3 oz/day|
|Low Fat Dairy||2 servings/day||I serving is 8 oz low fat milk or yogurt OR 1 oz cheese|
|Desserts & Sweets||2 servings/day||1 serving is 1 small cookie OR 1 tsp sugar|
|Legumes||3 serving/day||1 serving is ½ cup cooked beans|
|Nuts||1 serving/day||1 serving is ¼ cup nuts|
|Olive oil||2-4 servings/day||1 serving is 1 Tbs oil|
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating fresh, seasonal, whole foods and limiting most processed foods. By eating this way, you will get the benefits of a diet that is rich in unsaturated and omega-3 fats, fiber, antioxidants, and potassium. It’s great for your heart, your body, and your brain, not to mention your taste buds! For additional information, and tips on how to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your kitchen, check out Oldways Preservation Trust, or try this recipe below for a Mediterranean chopped salad, which incorporates most of the above food groups into one dish.
Mediterranean Chopped Salad
Yield: 4 main course servings (and if desired, serve with small, toasted pitas)