The Ashes

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April 17, 2009

The Mediterranean Diet: Is It the Best Diet for a Healthy Heart?

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Filed under : General

If you’re concerned about a healthy heart, what’s the best diet for good heart health?Are you concerned about keeping your heart healthy?

For good reason. The reality is that over eight percent of people in this country have heart disease and it’s the most common cause of death for both men and women. The good news is that lifestyle changes can have a major impact on the risk of developing heart disease, particularly diet and exercise. When it comes to prevention, what’s the best diet for good heart health?

The Best Diet for Good Heart Health: The Study

According to a meta-analysis (an analysis of a large group of studies) published in the Archives of Internal Medicine this month, the Mediterranean diet is the best diet for cardiac health. To reach this conclusion, researchers looked at over one-hundred-and-eighty-nine studies conducted between 1950 and 2007. Of all of the diets they researched, only the Mediterranean diet showed a consistent association with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Diet for Cardiac Health: What is the Mediterranean Diet?

What are the components of the Mediterranean diet that make it so important for good heart health? The Mediterranean diet emphasizes intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Red meat consumption is kept to a minimum and small amounts of fish are prepared at meals when meat is eaten at all. Foods are cooked with extra virgin olive oil and enjoyed with small amounts of red wine. Because of its importance for cardiac health and generalized longevity this diet is rapidly growing in popularity in this country.

This same study showed that a diet rich in high glycemic foods such as white rice, potatoes, white bread, white flour, and soft drinks was associated with negative effects on the heart as was the consumption of foods containing trans fats. Fortunately, trans fats have been removed from many processed foods and from food served in some restaurants, but Americans still eat diets composed mostly of high glycemic, processed foods rather than lower glycemic fruits, vegetables, and whole grains designed for good heart health.

The Mediterranean Diet for Good Heart Health: How to Get Started

How can you adopt a Mediterranean diet for good heart health? The best way to start is by making some heart healthy substitutions. Instead of cooking with butter and spreading it on foods, use olive oil or canola oil. Substitute a changing array of fresh vegetables and legumes for rice and potato side dishes. Enjoy a bowl of warm, whole grain oats in place of boxed cereal in the morning. Instead of serving your family red meat, limit it to once or twice a week and prepare fish instead. By making these changes gradually, it’s less likely you’ll experience the shock of a complete diet change. The reward can be a healthier heart.

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