Today, people living by the Mediterranean Sea may eat fast food. But the traditional fare of southern Italy, Greece and the other Mediterranean countries is fabulously heart-healthy. Studies link it to some of the highest life expectancy and lowest heart disease rates in the world. Follow these tips to make your meals more Mediterranean.
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1. Eat plant foods every day.
Welcome plant foods — fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, olive oil, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, herbs and spices — into your diet.
Give them top priority in daily meals (and snacks).
2. Make the most of veggies.
Choose a variety of colorful vegetables, picked or frozen fresh, to maximize their heart-healthy nutrients.
Try steaming, stir-frying, grilling or roasting, or munching on veggies raw.
3. Go for whole grains.
Make sure you’re getting all the fiber, iron and B vitamins naturally found in the kernel of whole grains.
Try whole oats, wheat, buckwheat, bulgur, wheatberries, barley, couscous, corn and rye.
4. Cook meatless with legumes.
Create hearty main dishes and soups using lentils, split peas, cannellini beans, chickpeas, fava beans, kidney beans and other legumes.
They’re packed with nutrients, fiber and protein and easy on the budget.
5. Try fruit for that sweet tooth.
Finish your meal the Mediterranean way — with fresh fruit instead of a rich dessert.
Fruit, packed with fiber, is heart-healthier than juice (although 100% fruit juice is fine in moderation).
6. Enjoy nuts, seeds and spices.
Nuts and seeds provide healthy fat, protein and fiber. Because they’re high in calories, snack on ¼ cup (1 oz.) at a time.
And let pine nuts, sesame seeds and Mediterranean spices add flavor to meals.
7. Make olive your go-to oil.
Replace saturated fat in butter, creamy salad dressings and sauces with monounsaturated fat in extra-virgin olive oil or olive-oil-based dressings to help reduce bad LDL cholesterol.
Enjoy olives along with olive oil.
8. Eat fish at least twice a week.
Make salmon, tuna, sea bass, sardines, herring, shrimp or crab your main course.
Fatty fish and shellfish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are heart-healthiest when baked or grilled, not batter-fried.
9. Eat but don’t overdo eggs and dairy.
Boost your calcium and protein with fat-free yogurt (Greek is highest in protein) and low-fat cheeses (like feta, part-skim mozzarella and ricotta).
Consume egg yolks in moderation.
10. Enjoy poultry but limit red meat.
Eat poultry, a versatile, lean protein delicious in meals and salads, twice a week. Buy white-meat, skinless chicken or turkey (when ground, at least 90% lean).
Eat red meat sparingly, if at all.
11. Drink moderately and exercise.
Wine is best enjoyed with meals, preferably surrounded by family and friends! The daily limit for men is two 3-1/2 oz. glasses and for women is one 3-1/2 oz. glass.
After your meal, take a long walk.
The Mediterranean Diet: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/nutrition/healthy-diet/mediterranean-diet
American Heart Association and diet: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Mediterranean-Diet_UCM_306004_Article.jsp