Heart Health: Switching To A Mediterranean Diet For Heart Health

Switching to a Mediterranean diet can lower your risk of heart disease. This change can help you live a long healthy life.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the industrial west. It is also well noted that heart disease is largely caused by a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. However, the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea have long enjoyed healthy lives. They suffer from fewer occurrences of heart attacks and heart disease and live to much older ages then people who live in the U.S. and other western countries. Research has now indicated that the regions natural eating habits play a major role in the low incidents of chronic diseases and long life expectancy rates. Switching to a "Mediterranean Diet" can lower your risk of heart disease, too.

The diet is made up of variations of the time-honored cuisines of Greece, Crete, Italy, Southern France, Spain and parts of the Middle East. It is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish. Red meat, which is known to increase your risk of heart related illnesses, is eaten only once a month or so. Wine can be enjoyed in moderation with meals. Regular exercise is of course essential to good health and to the Mediterranean Diet as well. And best of all, this diet does not require drastic changes to your current eating habits.

What are the characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet?

1. Most of your food should come from plants, including: fruits, vegetables, grains, breads, beans, potatoes, nuts, and seeds.

2. You can eat low-fat cheese and yogurt daily.

3. Non-fried fish and poultry can be eaten twice a week. Fish is more preferable.

4. Red meat can only be eaten once or twice a month.

5. Olive oil should be your main source of fat.

6. You should eat fresh fruit for your desserts.

7. A glass of wine with the dinner meal is acceptable.

8. Get plenty of physical exercise.

How can I begin the shift to the Mediterranean Diet?

1. Start to mix canola oil with olive oil. Olive oil should start to become your main source of fat. It is considered to be a "healthy fat" and retains the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy components of the olive itself.

2. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is linked to good heart health.

3. Aim for two meals a week of grilled or steamed fish. Fish oils are said to improve cardiovascular health and decrease mortality rates.

4. Exchange white grains for whole grains. Antioxidants contained in whole grains may work to reduce your overall risk for heart disease.

5. Have a couple of non-meat meals a week. Red meat has been linked to cancer and heart disease. Eating meat can introduce harmful toxins to the body.

6. Notice how much processed food is in your diet and cut back. Try to incorporate more locally grown foods that have retained their healthy vitamins and minerals.

7. Cut back on sweet desserts by replacing three a week with fruit desserts.

8. If you are not used to physical exercise then just start walking. Even walking at a moderate pace will improve your cardiovascular health. Slowly increase the distance and speed when you feel you can.

You should always consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise plan.

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