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Eat Like a Greek

Looking for a heart-healthy eating plan? Look to the Mediterranean. Think fruits, veggies, fish, and whole grains—with a splash of olive oil and even a glass of red wine!

Research shows that a traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol levels. This “bad” cholesterol is a prime culprit in the formation of thick, hard plaque deposits that can clog arteries. In a meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults, a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular mortality, as well as overall mortality.

In addition to helping the heart, the diet has been associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and is thought to reduce the risk of breast cancer when supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts. Further research has found a link between the Mediterranean diet and brain health in aging adults. A 2015 study from the journal Neurology suggests that the diet may even help make your brain five years younger!

Opting for Healthy Fats

Adopting a Mediterranean diet is easy.
• Eat primarily plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
• Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
• Eat fish and poultry at least two times a week
• Rein in the red meat (opt for small portions)
• Replace salt with herbs and spices
• Eat low-fat dairy (one to three servings of kefir, yogurt, milk, or curd cheeses like ricotta)
• Enjoy dining with friends and family
• Have a glass of red wine
• Get plenty of exercise

 The Mediterranean diet does not focus on limiting total fat consumption. Instead, the diet centers on making wise choices about the types of fats you eat. While nuts are high in fat (approximately 80 percent of the calories in nuts come from fat), most of the fat is not saturated. Stay away from saturated fats and hydrogenated oils that contribute to heart disease. From the different types of olive oils, extra-virgin and virgin olive oils are the least processed and contain the highest levels of protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant benefits. Consider dipping whole grain bread in olive oil instead of spreading with butter or margarine. When eating fish, choose fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna. Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, prevent harmful blood clots, and prevent the formation of plaque.

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