Here are some reasons for eating the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.

Kananaskis Country (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Kananaskis Country (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

In a 2012 study, 52 per cent of Americans (that were polled) believed doing their taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthy.

When you are hungry it is so easy to find unhealthy fast junk food. Junk food easily satisfies your hunger and craving for sweet, salty and oily food. But junk food can cause lot of damage to your heart, liver, brain, bones and other vital organs.

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada encourages Canadians to eat a healthy diet, control salt intake, and be physically active to lower blood pressure. The latest result from the DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) has confirmed these recommendations, providing more encouragement for people to choose a healthier diet.

My favourite is Mediterranean diet – a traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating – plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine.

Mediterranean and DASH diets are considered to be the most effective diets for good health.

In Mediterranean diet you are encouraged to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, nuts, the odd glass of red wine, fish and dairy, and olive oil as the main source of fat. Mediterranean diet is well known as one of the world’s healthiest. DASH diet also recommends a higher level of vegetable and fruit intake.

The DASH diet had the greatest effect on blood pressure, lowering levels within two weeks of starting the plan. Not only was blood pressure reduced, but total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” was lower, too.

What is important to note is blood pressure was lower for everyone on the DASH diet. Less salt people consumed, the greater the decrease in blood pressure. People who already had high blood pressure had the largest decrease in blood pressure.

Five things to remember about Mediterranean diet:

  1. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
  2. Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil.
  3. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  4. Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month.
  5. A glass of red wine per day – if you are confortable with that.

The health effects of alcohol have been debated for many years, and some doctors are reluctant to encourage alcohol consumption because of the health consequences of excessive drinking.

There are other benefits of Mediterranean diet. It is associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

The focus of the Mediterranean diet isn’t on limiting total fat consumption, but rather to make wise choices about the types of fat you eat. The Mediterranean diet discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), both of which contribute to heart disease.

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. That is remarkable.

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