Mediterranean diet for heart health: is a healthy eating plan which is plant based and incorporates the traditional flavors and cooking methods of the region.
Why the Mediterranean diet?
Interest in the diet began in the 1950s when it was noted that heart disease was not as common in Mediterranean countries as it was in the U.S. Since then, numerous studies have confirmed that the Mediterranean diet helps prevent heart disease and stroke.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that is based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.
Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, are the foundation of the diet. Olive oil is the main source of added fat.
Fish, seafood, dairy and poultry are included in moderation. Red meat and sweets are eaten only occasionally.
Healthy fats instead of unhealthy ones
Olive oil is the primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat, which lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (or "bad") cholesterol levels. Nuts and seeds also contain monounsaturated fat.
Fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats help fight inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids also help decrease triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure.
If you are on medication such as anticoagulants, especially Coumadin, check with your physician before starting this diet.
What about wine?
Wine is often associated with the Mediterranean diet. It can be included but only in moderation. While alcohol may reduce the risk of heart disease, it has other health risks.
The Mediterranean way: Get started with these tips:
Build meals around vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Eat fish at least twice a week.
Use olive oil instead of butter in preparing food.
Serve fresh fruit for dessert.
Living the Mediterranean way also means being physically active and sharing meals with loved ones. Savor the benefits!
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet: Healthy eating plan to lower your blood pressure and improve your health. It is designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). This diet includes foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. These nutrients help control blood pressure. The diet limits foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.
Studies have shown that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. The diet can also lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol levels in the blood. High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol levels are two major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
The DASH diet is lower in sodium than a typical American diet, which can include a whopping 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium or more a day.
The standard DASH diet limits sodium to 2,300 mg a day. It meets the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day. That's roughly the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of table salt.
A lower sodium version of DASH restricts sodium to 1,500 mg a day. You can choose the version of the diet that meets your health needs. If you aren't sure what sodium level is right for you, talk to your doctor.
The DASH diet is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. It limits foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.
Here's a look at the recommended servings from each food group for a 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet:
Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day.
One serving is one slice bread, 1 ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta.
Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day.
One serving is 1 cup raw leafy green vegetable, 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables, or 1/2 cup vegetable juice.
Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day.
One serving is one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or 1/2 cup fruit juice.
Fat-free or low-fat dairy products: 2 to 3 servings a day.
One serving is 1 cup milk or yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces cheese.
Lean meats, poultry and fish: six 1-ounce servings or fewer a day.
One serving is 1 ounce cooked meat, poultry or fish, or 1 egg.
Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week.
One serving is 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked legumes (dried beans or peas).
Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day.
One serving is 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons salad dressing.
Sweets and added sugars: 5 servings or fewer a week.
One serving is 1 tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet, or 1 cup lemonade
The foods at the center of the DASH diet are naturally low in sodium. So just by following the DASH diet, you're likely to lower your intake of sodium. To further reduce sodium in your diet:
Use sodium-free spices or flavorings instead of salt
Do not add salt when cooking rice, pasta or hot cereal
Choose plain fresh, frozen or canned vegetables
Choose fresh or frozen skinless poultry, fish, and lean cuts of meat
Read food labels and choose low-sodium or no-salt-added options
As you cut back on processed, high-sodium foods, you may notice that food tastes different. It may take time for your palate to adjust. But once it does, you may find you prefer the DASH way of eating.
Here is to your good health,