If you know about healthy eating patterns, you’re likely familiar with the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
But if you’re just starting to test out heart-healthy eating, the specifics of the diet can get a little bit murky.
The Mediterranean diet is more of an eating style instead of a rigid list of specific foods and servings. It is based on the eating habits of people in countries that border the Mediterranean sea, who tend to have a much lower risk for disease and some of the longest life expectancies in the world.
Generally speaking, the pattern for a Mediterranean-style diet includes:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Nuts, beans, and whole grains
- Olive oil is the principal source of fat, instead of butter or margarine
- Fish and seafood
- Limiting red and processed meats, sugary sweets, processed foods, and some dairy.
The specifics can shift from county to country based on what food grows or is available there, but that is the overall theme of the Mediterranean diet. It can also be adjusted to fit local food availability wherever you might be.
Research has shown that the diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events like heart disease and stroke, and is associated with lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and other heart disease risk factors.
So, what does it look like? In North America, you could start by cooking and basing salad dressings with olive oil. Visually, you’ll also see about half of your plate occupied by vegetables.
Regular protein sources would include fish like salmon, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, or sardines, maybe once or twice per week. Beans can also be a good protein source, as can whole grains like quinoa. Try having them around three times per week, eating nuts or fresh fruit for dessert instead of sweets.
Breakfast could include something like olive oil or avocado on whole-wheat toast, maybe with an egg. Dinner of salmon with pilaf and stir-fired veggies would work, and pastas should be whole grain.
If you’re tinkering with the idea of heart-healthy eating, a Mediterranean-style diet is probably the best you can do.