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    The Mediterranean diet

    The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its beneficial contribution towards a healthy heart. The majority of the diet is focused on consuming large amounts of fruits, vegetables and vegetarian proteins. Moderate amounts of whole grains are also consumed, and only small amounts of red meat. The higher fat content of this diets is attributed to the regular and generous use of fish, nuts and olive oil. Because the fats in this diet is mostly unsaturated, it is good for the heart.

    According to the Mediterranean food pyramid, getting enough physical activity is very important. And as a guideline, 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week is suggested.

    The food pyramid:

    The Mediterranean Food Pyramid

    Monthly: 

    Lean red meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb) should only be eaten 3-4 times per month. Sweets should also be limited, and replaced with fruit for dessert.

    Weekly: 

    Egg yolks should be limited to 4 times a week, whiles egg whites can be eaten every day. Fish/shellfhish should be consumed every week (2-3 servings) and not fried; instead use cooking methods such as baking, sauté, roast or grilling. Poultry should only be eaten if it is desired, as it is not necessary for this diet (1-3 servings).

    Daily:

    Non-starchy vegetables should be consumed daily (4-8 servings), and these include all vegetables except potatoes, corn, peas and winter squash.  Fruit (2-4 servings) should be eaten whole to increase the fiber content. Fruit juice should be limited because of the high sugar content. Dairy products (1-3 servings) should be consumed in the low fat form to reduce the amount of saturated fats in the diet. Whole grains and starchy vegetables (4-6 servings) are high in fiber and have less effect on blood sugar than refined, processed grains such as white bread and pasta. Whole grains also contribute to satiety. Choose options such as whole wheat bread or pitas, whole grain cereal, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, potatoes, corn, peas and winter squash. Legumes and nuts should be eaten in moderation, but 1-3 servings of 2 Tbsp are allowed. Alcohol can be consumed daily (except when interfering with medication etc), but should not exceed one drink for women, and two for men.

    Health benefits:

    The Mediterranean diet has been widely known for being THE heart healthy diet. Studies have exemplified the decrease in mortality after switching to a Mediterranean diet. The diet is cited often as being low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and dietary fiber. Wine that is often associated with the Mediterranean diet has health benefits, because of its high content of polyphenolic compounds, which have antioxidative properties. When consuming moderately and regularly, the health benefits are evident.

    After a recent 15 year long observational study, it was confirmed that the Mediterranean diet can improve the health of individuals by reducing the occurrence of chronic diseases in women over the age of 50. (Annals of Internal Medicine 159 (9): 584-591)

     

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