If you are concerned about heart health, then the Mediterranean diet could be just what you need. A healthy diet, in general, should incorporate fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. The consumption of unhealthy fats and red meat should be limited, and the intake of fats strictly controlled.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes (peas and beans), and grains. It also includes fish and moderate portions of chicken. In the diet, there is very little beef, pork, and lamb. Most of the fats come from healthy sources like olive oil and nuts. The healthy diet can even include a glass of red wine!

There is no one standard Mediterranean diet; it is more a combination of foods that are popular in the region. So, in this context the word "diet" should be understood, not as a way of reducing food intake but as the kinds of foods a person regularly eats.

The Mediterranean Diet Benefits

It has been long known that people living in and around the Mediterranean area live longer. When research was done, it was shown that diet played an essential role in people's health. In addition, it wasn't just the different foods that were a factor, but it was the combination of these different foods that provided health benefits.

Many recent studies have also shown that the Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. One study reported that a Mediterranean-style diet showed "impressive effects on cardiovascular disease."

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found:

  • 30% of deaths from heart disease and stroke can be prevented in high risk patients when they switch to the Mediterranean diet
  • 20% reduction in overall mortality
  • 9% reduction in death from heart disease in healthy individuals
  • 6% reduction in incidence of or death from cancer
  • 13% Reduction in incidence of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease

The diet includes foods like fish, lots of olive oil, nuts, beans, whole grains, plenty of fruit and vegetables and red meat is allowed in moderation. Fish is rich in omega-3, olive oil has healthy fats, and honey is a natural sweetener.

It's not just in heart health where Mediterranean diets are a winner. People who follow the diet also suffer less from other health problems. These are type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, obesity, and premature death.

It also seems that a factor in heart health is what the diet does not include - processed foods, artificial flavorings and sugar.

For all round health benefits, including heart health, the Mediterranean diet has proven results.

A Look Inside The Mediterranean Diet

Following the Mediterranean diet is not expensive. It doesn't involve following a strict list of "dos and don'ts." It is more a case of following the general principles of healthy eating and making sure that there is variety.

Here is what a healthy Mediterranean diet should consist of:

  • Increase the intake of vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), fruits, and whole grains
  • Eat more fish and chicken in place of red meats
  • Use olive oil instead of animal fats
  • Use herbs to flavor food rather than salt
  • Dairy products should be taken in moderation
  • Have a glass of red wine at mealtimes

All these foods have proven results when it comes to having a healthy heart.

The Effect Of Olive Oil On Heart Health

The Mediterranean diet is well known for having olive oil in the diet. The beneficial effects of olive oil on the heart are so great that even the FDA allows health claims on bottles of olive oil.

How is good quality olive oil beneficial for heart health? Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids. One of these, Oleic acid, is a very 'heart-healthy' fat. These fatty acids also help to lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).

Of course, in the end, too much of any type of fat is bad for you. So, how much olive oil should be used in a Mediterranean diet for health benefits? In Mediterranean diets the norm is 3 to 4 tablespoons a day.

Mediterranean Diet For A Healthy Heart

It is clear that for a healthy heart, a person should follow the Mediterranean diet. The foods in the diet and the combination of foods in the diet have scientifically proven health benefits.

Therefore, if you are concerned about heart health - the Mediterranean diet could be a winner for you.