A Close Look at Mediterraneaan Diet

Here is good news for the healthy and unhealthy hearts.

If you have been reading my columns faithfully and following the advice religiously (so to speak), then I guess you have settled down each evening for a hearty (pun intended) or an un-hearty meal supplemented with one to two ounces of red wine.

Bad news is red wine is not going to wash away all the cholesterol plaques you have collected in your coronaries. Those plaques are plugging your arteries. If your plate is typically filled with red meat and other foods rich in saturated fats (those that are firm at room temperature), then heart disease and cardiac death is awaiting you, my friend.

Good news is you can do something to change that so you can enjoy your favourite red wine for a long time. That magic bullet is Mediterranean diet.

What is a Mediterranean diet?

Dr. Stephen Choi, in an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, summarizes this quite well. He says, “Although there is no single “Mediterranean diet,” the term has come to represent a food pyramid consisting at the base of bread, pasta, rice and other whole grains, and potatoes, supplemented with fruits, beans, vegetables and nuts to which olive oil is added, along with cheese and yogurt. Fish, chicken, eggs and refined carbohydrates are eaten less frequently (weekly). Red meat is consumed infrequently. The whole pyramid is supplemented with moderate alcohol consumption.”

What is the proof that Mediterranean diet helps reduce heart disease and death?

Researchers from the University of Minnesota conducted a study in seven countries which started in 1958 and was first published in 1970. They found that heart disease was rare in the Mediterranean and Asian regions where vegetables, grains, fruits, beans and fish were the dietary mainstays.

In 1999, the Lyon Diet Heart Study compared the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet with one that the American Heart Association recommended for patients who had survived a first heart attack. The study found that within four years, the Mediterranean approach reduced the rates of heart disease recurrence and cardiac death by 50 to 70 percent when compared with the heart association diet. Isn’t that remarkable?

It is important to know that the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is not really low in fat, but its main sources of fat – olive oil and oily fish as well as nuts, seeds and certain vegetables – help to prevent heart disease by improving cholesterol ratios, reducing inflammation and prevent the formation of artery-damaging LDL cholesterol.

Fruits, vegetables and red wine (or purple grape juice) have antioxidant properties and reduce bad cholesterol. Olive oil is a type of food that can easily replace commonly used animal oils, lard, and butters that are no good for one’s girth and health. One can use canola oil for cooking and use margarine based on canola oil. You can use more expensive and aromatic olive oil for salads.

Is Mediterranean diet good for weight loss?

There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that one diet is no better than the next when it comes to weight loss. It is how much you put in your mouth that affects your girth, hips and thighs. Source of the calories you consume is not important to your weight but it may affect your heart, your blood sugar level and your risk of developing cancer.

So, have a glass of red wine and be smart. The quality and quantity of what you eat is important. Too much alcohol will destroy you, your loved ones and other innocent bystanders. Do some physical activity daily and for heaven’s sake, do not smoke. And embrace Mediterranean diet warmly.

That is a simple recipe. Now start cooking, my friend.

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