Nutrition News: Heart-Healthy Mediterranean
I know I've written about this healthy way of eating before, but here's another reason to consider the Mediterranean pattern of eating. In a brand-new study (published in May 2022), researchers at the Reina Sofia University Hospital in Cordoba, Spain, looked at which diet was best for your heart after you've been diagnosed with coronary artery disease: the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet. The CORDIOPREV study compared the Mediterranean diet with a low-fat diet over a seven-year follow-up period.
A total of 1,002 participants, with an average age of 59.5, were enrolled if they had known coronary artery disease and were randomly assigned to one of the eating patterns. Doctors didn't know which eating pattern their patient was assigned. In the seven-year follow up period, doctors looked at a composite of major cardiovascular events of participants, including myocardial infarction, revascularization, ischemic stroke, peripheral artery disease and cardiovascular death. The study was published in The Lancet on May 14, 2022.
They found the Mediterranean diet was superior to the low-fat diet at preventing cardiovascular events for men and women, but this was more evident in men. Heart events occurred in 67 (16.2%) of 414 men in the Mediterranean diet group versus 94 (22.8%) of 413 men in the low-fat diet group. For 175 women in the study, no difference was found between the groups.
So just what does it mean to have a Mediterranean pattern of eating? The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and heart-healthy fats. (In the study, olive oil was provided for free for participants in the Mediterranean diet group). It also includes fish and seafood twice a week and weekly chicken, pork and beef.
The diet was initially based on the traditional diet of Greece and southern Italy in the 1960s.
So, should you drizzle olive oil on your bread? Add feta and Parmesan cheeses to your recipes? Drink wine every night? While those may sound Mediterranean, what really counts is a pattern of eating and not necessarily specific foods. Here are six ways to get started.
No. 1: Replace other fats in your diet with olive oil, making it your go-to fat. Cook your daily vegetables in olive oil.
No. 2: Eat your vegetables as a main course. The high consumption of vegetables (and fruit, whole grains, cheese and yogurt) is a main characteristic of the Mediterranean diet. Greeks consume almost a pound of vegetables a day. Try green beans, peas, eggplant, artichoke and okra cooked with olive oil, tomato and herbs, served with bread and feta.
No. 3: Learn to cook a few basic Mediterranean meals by combining your veggies with beans and legumes, such as spinach and rice, Greek-style green beans or a Greek lentil stew. Try one new recipe a week to get started. There are lots of good cookbooks available. Find one you like. This doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing approach; just add a few Mediterranean dishes to your weekly menus.