For an even stricter heart-healthy diet, many heart specialists and dietitians recommend a Mediterranean-style diet emphasizing more vegetables and olive oil and less meat. Research has shown that people who live in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea tend to have lower rates of heart disease. This may be due, at least in part, to foods traditionally eaten in this part of the world, though other lifestyle differences exist as well.
While each country has its own culture, ethnic background, traditions and agricultural production, there are similar patterns to their traditional diets:
- Diet is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals.
- Olive oil is used as the major fat source in the diet (olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat).
- Dairy products, fish and poultry are eaten in small amounts and only a few times per week.
- Red meat is eaten very infrequently (a few times per month) and in very small amounts. Eggs are eaten infrequently (zero to four times per week).
- Red wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts (check with your doctor before drinking any alcoholic beverages, even in moderation). Purple grape juice offers the same health benefits of red wine but without the alcohol.
You may wish to include some of these guidelines in your heart-healthy diet. Choose plenty of fruits and vegetables—five to eight servings per day. Consider including vegetarian meals in your diet. Choose brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole-grain breads. Make a stir-fry using a variety of vegetables and a small amount of meat. Drink six glasses of water per day unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
For more information on the Mediterranean diet, go to www.mayoclinic.com/health/mediterraneandiet or www.americanheart.org