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Published on November 10, 2010

Eating The Mediterranean Way

Submitted by Jessica Dell, USD Dietetic Intern at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.

If you are looking for a heart healthy eating plan, Mediterranean cuisine may be the right choice for you. This conjures up grapes and wine, olives and olive oil, whole grains, nuts and seeds, more fish and less red meat. These foods provide an abundance of fiber, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants along with healthy fats. The lifestyle of people in the Mediterranean – the cradle of civilization - was studied for years by scientists and dietitians and has been shown to be a healthy way of eating for preventing chronic disease. Long known to be a healthy diet for a healthy heart, recent studies have indicated that the traditional Mediterranean diet may also provide actual protection against type 2 diabetes.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Lifestyle

Studies have shown that adults who are physically active and eat a healthy nutritious diet are better able to control weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Older adults who stick with eating the more plant-based Mediterranean way of eating are shown to be at lower risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of risk factors for diabetes that includes abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugars and triglycerides. Studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes who eat the Mediterranean diet were better able to manage their diabetes medications than those who ate a low-fat diet.

The Mediterranean lifestyle is not just about eating healthy foods. It is also about being active. Try to get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate aerobic activity a week. Choose exercises that make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster.

The Mediterranean Lifestyle

Making smarter healthy food choices can help you embrace the Mediterranean lifestyle. Many individuals have found this can be a delicious and healthy way to eat.

  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Bulk up on eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
  • Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Add herbs and spices in place of salt to help season food
  • Eat more fish and poultry either grilled, broiled, or sautéed
  • Limit small portions of red meat to special occasions
  • Choose low fat dairy products
  • Have a glass of wine at dinner with doctor approval
  • Enjoy these healthy meals with friends and relatives, reduce stress, and do not smoke

For more information on choosing to eat the Mediterranean Way visit with Hy-Vee Chef Staci Stengle, Hy-Vee Dietitian Brenda Patzlaff or any Avera dietitian.