What goes into the Mediterranean diet, and how to get started |  News

What goes into the Mediterranean diet, and how to get started | News

If you know anything about healthy eating, you may have heard that the benefits of eating Mediterranean-style are just as obvious as the crystal sea on a Greek island.

But for someone just experiencing the waters of heart-healthy eating, the details of such a diet can get a bit murky. This is because its definition can vary.

Catherine M. Champagne, professor of nutritional epidemiology, nutritional assessment and nutrition counseling at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, said eating Mediterranean-style doesn’t necessarily mean eating a lot of portions of a particular food at each meal. “It’s more of a style than that.”

In general, this pattern includes: – Fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nuts, beans and whole grains.

Olive oil as the main source of fat, unlike butter or ghee.

Fish and other seafood.

Limit consumption of red and processed meat, sugary sweets, processed foods and some dairy products.

It’s an eating pattern rooted in the traditional habits of people in countries bordering the Mediterranean, where rates of heart disease tend to be lower, and life expectancy after age 45 has been among the highest in the world.

Champagne said the details of what makes the Mediterranean diet can pass from country to country. But repeated studies have linked it to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. One study, published in 2018 in JAMA Network Open, found that of nearly 26,000 American women who were followed for up to 12 years, adherence to this diet was associated with a one-quarter lower risk of any of four cardiovascular events, including: Cardiovascular attacks. brain attack.

Mediterranean-style eating was incorporated into a recent update of the American Heart Association’s Heart Health Assessment Tool. Life’s Essential 8 produces a score based on eight easy-to-measure ratings: diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep health, body weight, blood lipids (cholesterol and other fats), blood glucose, and blood pressure. The assessments are easy to measure: diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep health, body weight, blood lipids (cholesterol and other fats), blood glucose and blood pressure.

The experts behind Life’s Essential 8 support Mediterranean-style eating patterns and DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which contain many similar ingredients. For individuals, Life’s Essential 8 diet is based on a screening tool for the so-called Mediterranean eating pattern of Americans.

Kristi Tangney, MD, professor of clinical nutrition and preventive medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, helped create the 16-question screening tool.

One of the hallmarks of Mediterranean-style eating, she said, is its flexibility. Research conducted in Spain on Mediterranean eating includes, for example, sofrito, a sauce made from olive oil and vegetables commonly eaten there. Tangney’s “Americanized” sieve leaves the sofrito out, because it rarely appears in American diets, but adds berries.

Champagne said eating Mediterranean-style works, in part because of how it affects cholesterol in the bloodstream. She said the Mediterranean diet lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol, and research suggests it either doesn’t affect “good” HDL or only slightly increases it.

The bottom line, Champagne said, is simply: “We’ve seen a lot of heart-healthy benefits from a Mediterranean diet.”

This does not mean that it is perfect. People trying to lose weight will still need to cut back on calories. It may be a challenge for Americans to embrace whole grains, stay away from processed foods and cut back on dairy products such as cheese, Tangney said.

Accessing fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods in a Mediterranean eating pattern can be a challenge for people on low incomes, said Dr. Annabelle Santos Fulgman, professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center and medical director of Rush Heart Center. Women’s Center.

Understanding the role of wine can also be challenging. Moderate drinking – one or two drinks a day – is part of the diet. But Folgman, who worked with Tangney to develop the screening tool, said the potential benefits from the wine outweighed the potential harms. Federal guidelines recommend that people who do not drink alcohol should not start, and for those who do drink, a little is best for health.

Those caveats aside, adopting aspects of Mediterranean eating can be easy.

Tangni said that taking extra virgin olive oil for cooking or in salad dressings is one place to start. Eat leafy greens daily. “When you look at your plate, the biggest part of your plate should be vegetables,” she said.

As for protein, the Mediterranean eating plan makes you cut back on red meat, so try fatty fish — such as anchovies, salmon, mackerel, tuna, or sardines — once or twice a week. Beans are a good source of protein. Tangney suggests eating them three times a week. Eat nuts or fresh fruit instead of sweets as a dessert.

Champagne said breakfast could include olive oil spread on whole wheat toast, and maybe an egg. She said that a salmon dinner with pilaf and a large portion of fried vegetables can be beneficial. The pasta should be whole grain. And people who don’t enjoy a lot of olive oil can find healthy fats in nuts or avocados instead.

Diet isn’t the only part of Mediterranean life that’s important for heart health. Eating pattern has historically been associated with lifestyles that include exercise and social activity.

But the flexibility that makes it difficult to define Mediterranean-style eating can also make it easier to embrace it.

“People like to choose,” Tangni said. “No one wants to be dictated to.”


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