In the 1960’s, western scientist showed a lot of interest in the diet and lifestyle of the Mediterranean region, mainly Greece & Italy because it was found that the incidence of death because of heart diseases was very low. One of their main findings showed that the diet consumed by the people had a very important part to play in this. One of the 7 metrics proposed by the American Heart Association (Life’s simple 7) for a healthy heart is diet and another 4 are determined by the diet we consume. A healthy diet and lifestyle both are the corner stone for a healthy heart.
Mediterranean diet is primarily made up of
- Fresh vegetables and fruit
- Plant based proteins from beans
- Whole grains
- Fresh low-fat cheese, yogurt
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
The minimally processed diet that is consumed by this population is the secret of its positive effect. These foods are amazing sources of in health enhancing nutrients. The nutrients present in these foods that work for the heart are:
- Fibre: Both soluble and insoluble fibre is proven to be protective to heart health. It is linked to lowering both Blood pressure and Cholesterol. In addition, it also helps protect against obesity and diabetes, two main risk factors for heart disease.
- Healthy fats: present in the Mediterranean diet bring with them protection against heart diseases. The main cooking oil used is Olive oil which is rich in heart protective Monounsaturated fats which are linked to lowering of total and LDL Cholesterol. Nuts & seeds also consumed add to the good fat profile. Fish is the preferred source of protein after beans and fish like salmon, tuna and trout are rich sources of omega-3 fats which are linked to lowering inflammation in the body thereby protecting the heart.
- Plant based: Most of the Mediterranean diet is plant based, with seasonal vegetables, fruits, beans, fresh cheese and low-fat yogurt. Red meat is very rarely eaten. Plant based foods are naturally low in fats and high in healthy vitamins and minerals. This is probably the main reason for their diet being so healthy free from excessive saturated fats, Trans fats and high in fibre and antioxidants phytonutrients which protect the heart by controlling inflammatory processes.
Mediterranean food uses a lot of herbs and spices which are treasure troves of flavour and nutrition. The flavour they add to the meal makes it easier to have lower salt intake while maintain the taste levels. We as Indians can follow this diet very easily as it is quite like our food.