Summer– the perfect time to get on board with what is one of the healthiest diets in the world. Based on the traditional eating habits of Southern Italy and Greece, the Mediterranean diet is linked to a lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Not only is this diet good for preventing disease, but it's also relatively easy on the wallet and can help your waistline, too.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes three things: Eating more fruits and veggies, eating less meat and fats, and adding more beans, seeds and healthy oils to your diet. (In this approach, meat is used as an accent, not as the centerpiece of a meal.) Try using these Mediterranean-style ingredients for a flavorful new way to a healthier you.
- Vegetables: Include lots of veggies in your diet – at least three servings per day (one-half cup cooked or 1 cup raw). Choose a variety of colors and textures, and prepare them different ways: Steamed, grilled, roasted, stir-fried or raw, and in combination with whole grains and lean meats.
- Meats: Meats should be eaten only every other day; have plant-based meals on the other days. Use 3 ounces of white meat, skinless chicken or turkey per person per meal, in stews, stir-fries, salads and casseroles. (A 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards.) Red meat should be limited to small servings a few times per month.
- Fish: 6 ounces or three servings of fish per week are recommended for heart health, especially salmon, tuna, sea bass, sardines, herring, anchovies or mackerel. These “oily” varieties are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have significant anti-inflammatory properties, too.
- Legumes: Have at least three 6-ounce servings per week of beans, peas, lentils, kidney beans, fava beans or other legumes. You can make hearty meatless main dishes and soups with legumes, which are packed with protein, minerals, and fiber, and cost only pennies per ounce.
- Fruits: Have three servings of fruit per day (one-half to 1 cup). Fresh fruits are great for snacks and desserts while avoiding processed sugars. Stick to whole fruit instead of juice to get the benefits of its heart-healthy fiber.
- Dairy or Eggs: Eggs and dairy should be limited to three servings per week. Fat-free or low-fat milk, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese are good sources of protein and calcium. Substitute egg whites for whole eggs at breakfast.
- Whole grains: Have three to six servings of whole grains per day (a serving can be a one-half cup of cooked grains, 1 cup of dry cereal or one slice of bread). Substitute refined or white flour products with items containing whole oats, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, quinoa or spelt.
- Olive oil: Enjoy 1 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil per day, including oil for cooking. Use it to replace the saturated fat in butter, dressing, and sauces; olive oil helps increase HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol at the same time.
- Nuts: Nuts and seeds provide healthy fat, protein, and fiber, but since they’re high in calories, limit them to 1 ounce at a time, three times per week. Raw walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sesame seeds and pine nuts add flavor and heart-healthy fats to pasta, cereal, salads, stir-fry dishes, and yogurt.
Before starting any diet, make sure it's right for you by consulting a doctor. You can find a registered dietician in our Provider Directory.
Do you have any heart-healthy recipe ideas?
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