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Top Five Foods for the Mediterranean Diet

There has been a wealth of research out there that supports the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. Recently, I spoke at length on my WWL-TV segment on a study out of the University of Alabama showing the clear benefits of this diet. Now, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and featured in the New York Times, was hailed for its success and findings. In fact, the study results were so clear that they stopped it earlier than planned.

Their study, out of the University of Barcelona, contained over 7,000 participants in Spain, all of which were in the high risk category and were overweight, smokers or diabetic. These subjects were divided into low-fat diets and those on the Mediterranean diet and followed for five years. What they found was those on the Mediterranean Diet, who were all considered high risk for heart disease, had a 30 percent reduction in heart disease. What they also found was that the Mediterranean Diet was easier for participants to follow than those who were trying to incorporate a low-fat diet. What this means for you is that the Mediterranean Diet can be heart healthy, especially if you make it part of your lifestyle. Traditionally, our Southern diet includes fried foods, sweets, red meats and sodas, almost all of which are very bad for you. Think about replacing these unhealthy choices with foods that contain heart-healthy oils, white meat, fruits and vegetables. You can even include a limited amount of red wine with your dinners if that is something you enjoy. My top five foods for better heart health are:

  1. Nuts – eat about a handful of nuts a day such as walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts
  2. Fish – incorporate fish high in omega-3 at least three times per week. Look for fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel.
  3. Olive Oil – switch your current oil intake to extra-virgin olive oil. This can also be the base for great salad dressings.
  4. Fruits and Vegetables – about three servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables a day is very important. Try different types and colors of each and incorporate those high in antioxidants.
  5. Legumes – Beans and lentils are good choices to add as a side dish.