As February, Heart Health Month, soon comes to a close, we must not forget to take our heart health seriously. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Choosing a Mediterranean diet is one of the best ways to protect your health.
Let’s take a look at some of the main items consumed by Italians, Greeks, Egyptians, and others who live near the Mediterranean Sea.
Vegetables are very central to the Mediterranean diet. For example, residents of Greece eat, on average, six or more servings of vegetables a day. Experiment with spices to add flavor and life to those veggies. No mushy broccoli here!
The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fish. Thousands of studies have proven that the Omega-3s present in fish are great at boosting heart health by decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing blood clotting, and reducing inflammation in general. The research has led to the American Heart Association recommending 2-3 servings of fish a week.
Nuts & Seeds:
Nuts and seeds are heart-healthy snacks and condiments for salads. Several of the largest cohort studies, including the popular Nurses’ Health Study, have shown a consistent 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death or cardiovascular disease associated with eating nuts several times a week. In fact, the FDA now allows some nuts and foods made with them to carry this claim: “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.” Which nuts to choose? Almonds lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Pistachios lower blood pressure and walnuts help keep the arteries clear.
The Greeks, Italians, and Spaniards are serious about their olive oil. Abundant evidence supports the role of extra-virgin olive oil in protecting the heart. It lowers LDL cholesterol and may raise your HDL (good cholesterol).
Try substituting your red meat dishes for fish; choose nuts and seeds over cookies and pastries, and experiment cooking with olive oil as opposed to butter in your cooking and you will be doing your heart a super favor!