4 Ways The Mediterranean Diet Helps Your Heart
By Stephanie , August 8, 2019 11:00 AM
Just how much impact can diet have? A Mediterranean style of eating reduced heart disease risk by 28 to 30 percent in a large 2013 study from Spain. But you don’t have to live near the Mediterranean to get the benefits.
In a 2013 study that tracked a diverse group of 6,229 American women and men, ages 44 to 84, for eight years, Johns Hopkins researchers and others found that a Mediterranean-style diet combined with regular exercise, a healthy weight, and not smoking protected against early heart disease, slowed the build-up of plaque in artery walls, and reduced risk for an early death by 80 percent.
The Power of Your Mediterranean Plate
Our study shows us that you have the control and power to change the trajectory of your health and life,” says lead study author and Johns Hopkins expert Haitham Ahmed, M.D., M.P.H. “With a healthier diet, exercise, weight maintenance and smoking avoidance, thousands of our participants were able to live longer and free of cardiovascular disease. You can too!”
Mediterranean-style eating aids your heart in four ways, according to Ahmed:
1. It helps keep cholesterol levels healthy.
There have been multiple studies that have examined the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides — and these results appear promising. Healthy participants, individuals with high lipid levels, or individuals with other medical conditions participated in these studies, lasting from anywhere between 4 weeks and 4 years.
Most of these studies have focused on certain aspects of the Mediterranean diet, such as the consumption of fruits and veggies, using high amounts of virgin olive oil (up to one liter per week), or eating nuts (up to 30 grams a day, or two handfuls).
2. It enhances your body’s ability to absorb blood sugar (diabetes and prediabetes threaten your heart’s health).
Among people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, a Mediterranean-style weight loss diet resulted in better blood sugar levels, more pounds lost, and better cardiovascular risk factors compared to a low fat diet. The Mediterranean-style diet in this study included more fat from olive oil and nuts, so the amount of carbohydrate was slightly less – about 44% of total calories, so certainly not low carb, but lower than most low fat diets.
Additionally, people who follow a Mediterranean-style eating pattern have less incidence of metabolic syndrome, reduced risks of heart attacks, stroke and even dementia – all problems that hold increased risks for people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
3. It cools off damaging inflammation, an immune system response triggered when the body fights perceived intruders.
Acute, or one-time, inflammation is helpful in fighting viruses and bacteria, but people who are overweight, consume high levels of refined foods, and lead a sedentary lifestyle have chronic, or ongoing, inflammation, which may lead to diabetes and liver and heart disease.
4. It helps arteries stay flexible and resist plaque buildups.
Nutrients in this plan work as a team to produce these benefits. These include “good” monounsaturated fat from nuts and olive oil; beneficial omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish like salmon; and fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protective phytochemicals from whole grains and produce.
“What you don’t eat is also important,” Ahmed notes. “Large amounts of refined carbohydrates [such as sweets and white bread] can cause blood sugar spikes, which prompt the body to store fat in a different way and can lead to obesity and diabetes. Saturated fats [found in whole milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, fatty meats and poultry skin] can affect your cholesterol. All these harmful effects increase your risk of heart disease tremendously.”
To Sum It Up
A Mediterranean diet can be great for people who are overweight, diabetic or looking to improve their metabolic health.
And, as with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and stick with it in the long term.
That being said, few things are as well proven in nutrition as the powerful health and weight loss benefits of a Mediterranean diet.
By the way if you like this and you are serious getting into the Mediterranean diet.
You might like this 28-Day Mediterranean program that gives you a no brainer easy approach that gets you started with shopping lists, quick and easy recipes, and tips for creating Mediterranean meals.
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