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The Mediterranean diet healthiest for your heart (infographic on HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic)

The Diet Proven to Protect Your Heart (Infographic)

Mediterranean diet healthiest for your heart

Paella or souvlaki – the choice is yours. Pick any traditional dish from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and you’re sure to be on your way to a healthier you. Loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, fish, lean meats and olive oil, the Mediterranean Diet is the diet research shows is best for your heart.

The Mediterranean diet healthiest for your heart (infographic on HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic)

Tags: healthy diet, infographic, Mediterranean diet
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  • Luciana Hannibal

    This is sad. This sugestion is just simply wrong. Scientific proof that eating dairy, meats of all sources and oils is harmful to the heart and the endothelium is overwhelming. Even small amounts of these items are harmful, and most importantly, totally unnecessary. A plant-based, no added oils, whole grains diet is the only thing that can be referenced as healthy for the heart and to prevent cardiovascular disease in general. Please, check out the work of bullet-proof doctors, such as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), Dr. Campbell (The China Study), Dr. Barnard (Diabetes) and many more! They have all independently proved that oils, dairy and meats are harmful and absolutely unnecessary to maintain good health.

    • Janice M Giaco

      Check out Denise Minger’s review of “the China Study” VERY INFORMATIVE. Oils have been painted as the Devil. We need fats in the diet. Every cell in your body has a cell wall constructed with fatty acids. Without them you wouldn’t be here. Check out also Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm. A man of great wisdom who understands the Earth, Animals and Man’s duty.

      • Luciana Hannibal

        Janice, I read several reviews and critiques to the Esselstyn program and to The China Study as well. I think we all agree that “good fats” are needed in the diet. None of the doctors disagree on that point. The point is that we can easily obtain these “good fats” from seeds, nuts and certain fruits and vegetables, thus not needing the addition of any oils or fats at all. I also agree that olive oil is better in quality compared to several other oils, sure, but the fact is that our bodies do not need processed oils (bottled oil, even if we buy the extra virgin, minimally processed versions, etc). A plant-based, whole grains, no added oils diet provides all the fats needed to maintain good health. No need to add extra oil at all. As you said, our cellular membranes are synthesized from fatty acids. Fats are part of many other functions, such as cholesterol synthesis, hormone synthesis and cellular signaling. But is essentially impossible that a person eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains will ever run short of fatty acids to perform these critical biological tasks. Our organisms are prepared to survive with much less than we are providing it in this era of excessive, yet nutrient-poor caloric intake.

        • William

          Luciana you hit the nail on the head. I have been on that type of diet for years. Itsaved my life when I had a blockage and today the blockage is pretty much cleaned up. My total cholesterol is 90 with an LDL of 22. I get all the fats I need from the things you said and a little flax seed mill.

      • William

        Minger’s review is flawed. We need fatty acids which are found in vegetables of all types. The best source of fatty acids is flax seed meal for heart health. Fish get the fatty acids from the seaweed so seaweed is also a good choice. I have been on the Esselstyn life style for three years after doctors found a blockage of my RCA. Today, I am pretty much clean of any blockages. All oils are 100% fat. Fat leads to heart disease. Oils are unbalanced betwwen Moega 6,9 and 3. In my three years my life has changed, more energy, less stress, weight loss that stays off. We get fats from certain plants. This diet shown is aweful and can be deadly. I respectfully disagree with your observation.

        • Luciana Hannibal

          William, I am happy that you are in great health now! Slowly but surely more and more people are learning about this way of eating and living and gaining in health! I have been doing this for almost 2 years now and would not change it for anything in the World. I experience the same things you mentioned, less stress, great cholesterol levels, more energy and weight loss for sure! I have friends doing the Mediterranean diet and they keep on having all kinds of health issues… I am doing my best to help them transition into healthier eating. My father, born and raised under an organic Mediterranean diet has had type 2 Diabetes for 15 years. In the later years, he also developed high blood pressure. He started to eat a plant-based, whole grains, no-added oils 1 year ago and today his doctor is removing the medication. His blood glucose is normal. His blood pressure and vision loss have been corrected. My dad is living proof that the Mediterranean diet does not work. I too wish that reference Hospitals like Cleveland Clinic would do a better job in recommending only the best options to their patients and the random reader. Just the fact that there is a McDonald’s at Cleveland Clinic’s Main Hospital says a lot. I truly look forward to the change.

          • William

            Luciana thaks for the response it was great reading it. It is great to hear about your father’s success! It does not surprise one bit. My doctors tell me they recommend the Mediterranean diet because they don’t believe people can stay on the diet we are on so they push what they think will help. This diet is easy, once you know how to season things. I use a very little bit of seitan (no oil) as a treat sometimes. My wife went on the same diet for the first year and lowered her cholesterol levels by 80 points, they were high to start with. Her doctor told her not worry about it and that my diet was not for her. She started eating the Mediterranean diet and her cholesterol levels went back to the high levels and are even higher than before. She is now convinced and is back on the plant centered diet. I am sure you know about Jeff Novick. I just love his info. Esselstyn and I have had several conversations and I think the man saved my life. I know he did. No more blockages.

          • Luciana Hannibal

            Jeff Novick is brilliant! What a privilege to have met him personally! There are wonderful experts leading this change in lifestyle; we need to keep spreading the word to increase awareness. Everyone deserves great health! Congratulations to you and your wife!

        • Janice M Giaco

          I am happy that you are doing well. However it is not cholesterol that causes atherosclerosis, it is inflammation. Looking at your HDL tells more than LDL. Too much sugar in the diet lowers HDL and another culprit is partially hydrogenated oils, these you should avoid like the plague. You want a higher HDL level. Also get blood test for inflammation. All I am saying is I totally agree with Dr Robert Lustig and Journalist Gary Taubes that the focus should be on the real bad guy: Sugar. (I never quit eating eggs just because doctors said so. now they are changing their minds again, I always viewed eggs as the perfect food, cholesterol or no)

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Luciana – in 2013, there was a paper published in the NEJM to re-look at the Mediterranean diet – the paper concluded “Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.”
      http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303. Other observational and randomized studies have found that the Mediterranean diet may have positive effects on decreasing incidence of other medical conditions such as diabetes and enhancing healthy aging. The Mediterranean food pyramid suggests eating meat only a couple times per month if you like. The Mediterranean diet is healthy, easy to follow and has been proven through research to be heart healthy. betsyRN

      • William

        The Mediterranean diet is better than a junk food diet, but in essence it is also junk food with all the fats and oils and meat. it is all observation that is flawed.

      • Luciana Hannibal

        I read this NEJM paper as soon as it was published last year. It has indeed surprised the scientific community at large how such poorly designed study could get published in NEJM. It is unclear how this happened. If you look at the Letters to the editor and the numerous comments posted on the article’s website after its publication, you will appreciate the negative impact and perception this study has had worldwide, in spite of NEJM’s great reputation as a journal.The main problem is their terrible “control” group.The control “low fat group” was not anything resembling a low fat diet. Concluding that the Mediterranean diet is better compared to this biased control group is a major scientific flaw. Further, the statistical significance of some of their results is really on the edge of acceptability, and therefore, any conclusions derived from this study are heavily biased. Of interest, the authors state receiving support from the wine, nuts, dry seed councils, and major companies like PepsiCo and Danone. This is a red flag! None of these companies would wish to see a scientific study stating that added oils and dairy are detrimental to health.The most damaging part of this work is that it suggests that olive oil should be consumed, when in reality, none should ever be consumed if you care for a healthy heart. Cardiovascular disease does not exist in rural areas of the world eating a naturally low-fat, plant-based diet. These people have no access to any processed foods including bottled oils, and they have no history of heart disease whatsoever. That is the most compelling evidence that added oils are unnecessary to prevent or treat heart disease. It is a paradox that us, living in the most advanced part of western civilization are trying to prevent and cure heart disease by incorporating olive oil in our diets! Healthy fats can be obtained from walnuts, flaxseed, and several fruits and vegetables. No need for added oils or animal products. The Mediterranean diet has failed, and the NEJM article is nothing but a poor attempt to rescue its long-gone popularity. Mediterranean Europe is slowly transitioning into plant-based diets these days. The originators of the Mediterranean diet are already re-designing their eating habits. In the meantime, we are adopting and promoting the Mediterranean diet here! The Mediterranean diet does not prevent or reverse cardiovascular disease. Otherwise, there would have never been such high incidence of cardiovascular disease in Mediterranean countries. Cleveland Clinic is number 1 in treating cardiovascular disease, which is quite different from being number 1 at preventing and reversing the disease. My hope is that Cleveland Clinic would take the lead in the prevention and reversal of cardiovascular disease. I am optimistic that this could happen!

      • GeorgeBMac

        As Luciana pointed out: the control group in that study was not controlled. They were couched in eating a low-fat diet — but there was no support or monitoring like there was for the 2 Mediterranean groups (one had oil, the other had nuts in their diets).

        Compared to the standard American diet the control group lowered fat, but not to the point that it was actually low. And, in actual fact, they lowered it very little.

        AND, as has been shown in America, simply lowering fat does little or nothing — particularly if you replace it with processed foods, refined grains and all the myriad forms of sugars.

        So, Is the Mediterranean diet healthful?
        Compared to the standard American diet: YES!
        Compared to a whole food, plant based diet: NO!

  • William

    I am shocked that the Cleveland Clinic would post this article and call it heart healthy. Doctors do not understand healthy eating; they just think they do. The Mediterranean diet is not proven to protect one’s heart it is based on observation only and not true research. Yes it is a better diet than junk food, but it is not proved to improve heart disease. I follow a plant centered, no animal product, no oil diet after having had a blockage in my RCA. The blockage has reveresed over the last 3 years and I am no longer considered a man waiting to have a heart attack. The olive oil thing is a myth. It is not healthy at all and all of its calories are 100% fat.

    • GeorgeBMac

      William, the Mediterranean diet WAS scientifically proven to reduce heart disease when it was compared to a ‘low fat’ diet.

      But, there is controversy over whether than ‘low fat’ diet was a diet or whether it was simply a variation on the standard American diet.

      And that is NOT inconsistent with what you are saying: compared to the standard American diet the Mediterranean diet increases the proportion of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and reduces processed foods, meats, dairy, and sugars.

  • kpoko

    This was probably written at the McDonalds at the Clinic. It is another Reader’s Digest watered down piece of advice which promulgates food myths and distorts proven clinical research on diets and wellness. The Clinic needs to get rid of the Health Hub Team and replace them with professionals that know Nutrition and are in tune with current Clinical Research on Diet and Wellness.
    More proof that degrees and titles, and yes , being a doctor does not mean you know what you are talking about. A Plant Based Diet has the historical research and proof that the Health Hub people at the clinic should be discussing. Go to Nutritionfacts.org for real advice on Diet and Wellness and take anything coming out of the Cleveland Clinic Health Hub with a grain of salt….

    • Pat

      You are so right!

    • GeorgeBMac

      The merits of any diet can only be measured as a comparison to some other diet.

      When the Mediterranean diet was compared to a low-fat standard American diet it WAS more healthy and it did reduce heart disease.

      That doesn’t mean that it is the BEST diet. It only means that it is better than what most people are eating today.

      Does it reduce heart disease? YES!
      Does it reduce heart disease better than a whole foods, plant based diet? Probably not (but we don’t really know because the two have never actually been compared)

      • The_Beating_Edge_Team

        George – you may be interested in a video chat we are having tomorrow with Dr. Cho, Section Head of Prevention and Dr. Gillinov, author of Heart 411 on heart health and prevention – see chat.clevelandclinic.org for more information.

        • GeorgeBMac

          Thanks, I’m already registered for it!

  • GeorgeBMac

    Interesting that they would suggest moderate intake of poultry and dairy. I know that these are popular and conventional foods, but:
    – I am not aware of any evidence that shows that they provide any heart related benefits. (Maybe in relation to something worse, but not in and of themselves).
    – DIets that exclude dairy and poultry — along with most all animal products — and that are nutritionally balanced HAVE been proven to improve cardiac health along with several other health benefits.

    I this a case of: “We know people think they have to eat these unhealthy foods — so we will tell them to keep it “moderate”?

    • kpoko

      George,
      Since Heart Disease is the number one disease causing of death and since the Cleveland Clinic is one of the best institutions treating Heart Diseases, it is just pathetic that they also suggest a diet that is moderate” in terms of health and preventing heart diseases.
      Research on plant based diets is overwhelming in terms of how it prevents not only heart disease, but also cancers, diabetes and other leading causes of death. Clearly, advocating meat and dairy in the Mediterranean diet is misleading. People with heart issues will justify eating meat and dairy via the Mediterranean diet “because the Cleveland Clinic” said so….
      Why doesn’t the clinic provide advice on plant based diets?
      Why doesn’t the clinic provide evidence summary of all the clinical research on how plant based foods high in antioxidants prevents diseases….
      It is just unbelievable that this institution provides washed out mis leading advice, given the epidemics of diseases from our diets…

      • GeorgeBMac

        Unfortunately, the general medical establishment has not concurred that whole food plant based diets are either (pick one!): healthy or possible to follow… And, the cardiologists who work at the Cleveland Clinic are very much influenced by that consensus.
        Fortunately, the Clinic does offer — and advocate — what you suggest at the Wellness Center in Lyndhurst. I think Dr Esselstyn is based out of there and there are a number of others there that follow variations on his program.

        • The_Beating_Edge_Team

          Hi George. Our Preventive Cardiology dietitians work with patients if they choose to follow a plant based diet to make sure they are following it correctly and getting the right nutrients. It is true if the majority of patients could change their eating habits to the Mediterranean diet, which truly has been shown by research to decrease heart disease, stroke and PVD (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303?query=featured_home#t=article) this past year (as well as initially in 2001) – it would be very helpful for heart and vascular health overall.
          With everything – it is important to treat patients as individuals and find the diet that meets their goals, allergies, lifestyle and something one can live with lifelong – not as a short term solution. That is why it is very helpful to work with a registered dietitian to plan a diet that will work for you personally. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a registered dietitian search – http://www.eatright.org/Public/ We also have an online nutrition consultation and locally, dietitians at most of our Cleveland Clinic locations that will work with patients. betsyRN

          • GeorgeBMac

            BetsyRN — I’ve been there, done that and have the t-shirt to prove it! AND, I’m going back for more — because they are excellent! Absolutely outstanding! :)

            They offer a comprehensive program that includes nearly all facets of a heart healthy lifestyle. AND, they offer the patient centered ongoing support from specialists (such as their nutritionists and exercise physiologists) that is needed to make that work.

            In addition, I have found that the Preventive Cardiology department coordinates with and complements what the Wellness Center does. Together they make a powerful, patient focused team that is heads and shoulders above anything else in the country.

            Unfortunately, in the general world of cardiology, these two — The Cleveland Clinic’s Preventive Cardiology and the Wellness Center — are very much the exception.

          • The_Beating_Edge_Team

            I sent your message to their team – I am sure they will appreciate your note! betsyRN