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.
2. Make the most of veggies.
Choose a variety of colorful vegetables, picked or frozen fresh, to maximize their heart-healthy nutrients.
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.
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.
5. Try fruit for that sweet tooth.
Finish your meal the Mediterranean way — with fresh fruit instead of a rich dessert.
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.
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.
8. Eat fish at least twice a week.
Make salmon, tuna, sea bass, sardines, herring, shrimp or crab your main course.
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).
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).
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.
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