For those who are seeking a particularly heart-healthy lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet may be the perfect eating plan. Based on the traditional cooking style of certain countries that surround the Mediterranean sea — Greece, Southern Italy, Spain, and Morocco -this diet includes basic healthy foods such as vegetables, dairy, low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry, minimal amounts of red meat, and low to moderate amounts of red wine.
Olive oil is used generously, and it constitutes the principal source of fat. The Mediterranean diet also includes high consumption of legumes and whole grains. In keeping with the theme of mainly consuming plant-based foods, dessert often consists of fresh fruit.
A key factor that makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy is its low saturated fat content and the fact that the diet is high in monounsaturated fat and fiber. Many of the health benefits that are derived from the healthy monounsaturated fats in the diet are attributed to the high level of olive oil consumption. Red wine also contributes to the health benefits of the diet as it contains powerful antioxidants. The Mediterranean diet also generally utilizes herbs and spices to season foods as opposed to simply adding table salt, which is common in the diet of many Americans.
Typical Mediterranean foods include whole grain pastas, fish and shellfish, vegetables which are normally cooked in or drizzled with olive oil, cheeses and yogurt, legumes such as chickpeas, and an array of herbs and spices.
An example of a Mediterranean menu would be fruit and plain Greek yogurt for breakfast, a chickpea salad with romaine lettuce leaves and black olives drizzled with olive oil and vinegar for lunch. A Mediterranean dinner could include kabobs made from chunks of chicken breast skewered with vegetables and onions. Seasoned whole grain rice and roasted potatoes may be served as side items.
Overall, the Mediterranean diet offers a heart-healthy dietary plan, which derives its health benefits from its low saturated fat content and its abundance of vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Although the diet includes cured olives and cheeses which may be higher in sodium, the sodium content is offset by the use of herbs and spices throughout the diet as an alternative to seasoning foods with table salt and fats.
Optional moderate red wine consumption contributes an added source of antioxidants which also benefit the heart. Not only are the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet numerous, but the food options included in the diet plan are also numerous and flavorful.