NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Atkins, South Beach, low-carb, no sugar, you name it – there is a diet for every day of the week. However, there’s another diet approved by nutritionists that’s considered one of the absolute best diets out there for your heart health.
The next time you’re stalking the aisles of your local grocery store, consider the land of good fat: avocados, almonds and, yes, healthy amounts of wine. That’s the key to the Mediterranean diet.
It’s not new, but a new study suggests that it may top the list of ways to look and feel great.
“The Mediterranean diet focuses more on healthy fats rather than low-fat, or non-fat, or high protein,” registered dietician Tara Miller says. “The idea is that you’re going to focus on the types of fats that would be heart-beneficial: Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids. These are the types of fats that are protective, versus dangerous like cholesterol and trans fats.”
So what exactly is on the list of foods for the Mediterranean diet? The first is yogurt.
“Yogurt has antioxidants; it has acidophilus, which is great for the digestive system,” Miller says. “But it also has dairy in it – which has vitamin C, vitamin D, you know – we need that in our diet, and it’s a great snack.
“I would go with the two percent,” Miller says. “If you like regular yogurt, that’s fine too, but I find a lot of my clients really prefer this one because of the taste.”
Eggs and other dairy products are fine, but the Mediterranean diet places a huge emphasis on fruits and vegetables.
“Avocado is like the diet gem,” Miller says. “People don’t think avocado is something to include in the diet, but what’s great about it is that it has those heart-healthy fats, and it can be filling, plus it has vitamin E.”
Olive oil is also crucial to the diet as a great source of monounsaturated fat.
Another important aspect of the diet is replacing red meat with fresh fish.
“Salmon is going to be your top, but realize that any fish can be included in the healthy diet: shrimp, trout, mahi-mahi. You want to get a variety in, and that’s the enjoyment part of eating,” Miller says. “Seafood is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids – those are those heart-healthy fays that we’re looking for.”
Like any diet, portion size is everything. Eat too many nuts or drink too much wine, and you’ve blown it. Think about matching your food with your activity level.
“The Mediterranean diet is great for people who are trying to prevent cardiovascular disease and also to treat cardiovascular disease, which is obviously such an issue,” Miller says.
Butter and cream are replaced with margarine in the Mediterranean diet. Almonds, seeds and other nuts are fine in small amounts, and a glass of red wine each day is considered a great way to unwind – with some antioxidants to boot.
Four years on the Mediterranean diet can lower a person’s risk of chronic heart disease by more than 50 percent.