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How to Eat a Mediterranean Diet for Heart Health

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For years, the Mediterranean "diet" has been touted by many nutrition experts as a way to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and more, but the advice had been loosely based on the results of "observational studies."  People living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, tend to have a lower risk of those diseases. These folks consume a bounty of fresh and wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

However, the evidence favoring a Mediterranean-style eating plan just got much stronger.   A major clinical study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine found that about 30% of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented with a Mediterranean-style eating plan. Test subjects for this experimental study were selected if they had risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as type 2 diabetes, smoker, hypertension, elevated LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, overweight or obesity, or a family history of premature heart disease.  The scientists randomly assigned the 7,447 male and female subjects (ages 55-80) into one of three groups:
  • Mediterranean diet plan plus 4 tablespoons olive oil daily
  • Mediterranean diet plan plus a 1 ounce mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), or
  • A low-fat diet plan
The Mediterranean-style eating plan clearly provided a protective boost for these test subjects who had risk factors for heart disease.
The results of this study now position the Mediterranean diet as a powerful eating plan when it comes to the prevention of heart disease. If you want to compare your daily diet to the Mediterranean plan used in the study, here's the checklist:

Trans-Continental Cuisine
You don't have to cook exclusively Mediterranean dishes at home to integrate this healthy eating plan into your life.  You can easily incorporate these eating strategies into many of your favorite meal plans no matter where you live and which cuisines you prefer.
  • Top a salad with a small handful of walnuts or slivered almonds.
  • Switch from beef to a fish in your tacos, and use a corn tortilla packed with romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes and onions, and topped with mango salsa.
  • Mix lentils with your favorite rice dish and top with a vegetable-tomato sauce.
  • Stir-fry chicken with snow pea pods, bell pepper strips, onions, broccoli and cauliflower in olive oil.  Serve over brown rice and top with walnuts and a dash of soy sauce.
  • Mix up your own homemade Italian dressing using olive oil and your favorite flavored vinegar.
Want more Mediterranean inspiration? Try one of these recipes:

If you're dining out, follow these guides to choose healthier Mediterranean fare:
Dining Out: Italian Cuisine
Dining Out: Greek & Middle Eastern Cuisines
What is your favorite Mediterranean dish? How do you incorporate this lifestyle into your own meals?

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Thank you. Report
CECELW 9/10/2020
i've heard of this diet, i've never tried it though Report
MWHIGGINS 9/10/2020
Thanks for this.... so much better than just buying a cookbook and not knowing the rationales behind the choices Report
PUALANI1 9/10/2020
Read the study. Note that the Mediterranean diet plus nuts had better results than the Mediterranean diet plus 4 TBS olive oil. So Med diet reduces heart attacks by 30% but a vegan diet, according to Dr. Esselstyn, can reduce it by much more - like 90%. Hmmm. Who funded the Med study? Olive oil industry? Report
PUALANI1 9/10/2020
@CGODDY78 What all doctors say is if you don’t drink, don’t start. The downside of alcohol is huge. Raises cortisol (waist size), makes you eat more and has a ton of calories. Report
It's not a diet but a way of eating for life. Report
METAFUKARI 9/10/2020
Its a great way to eat to live! Report
GRANNYOF05 4/8/2020
Yum Report
GRANNYOF05 2/7/2020
Thanks Report
SUSANBEAMON 12/14/2019
I don't drink alcohol. I like mushrooms. Report
LIDDY09 12/12/2019
Thanks Report
Great article! Report
KITT52 12/11/2019
now I have some good recipes..thanks Report
KITTYHAWK1949 12/11/2019
I try to eat healthier but hard to eat different from what you were raised with and enjoy Report
MAREE1953 12/11/2019
I will definitely try some of those fish recipes! I love this way of eating. Combined with time restricted eating, it is my healthy way of life Report
MARITIMER3 11/21/2019
Thank you for some wonderful new recipes to try. Report
KATHYJO56 11/12/2019
This is broke down very well and easy to understand. Report
This "diet" is my favorite because it is sustainable and a lifestyle choice. Just eat real food, not from a package or box. I love that it encourages eating more fish and vegetables and less red meat (though I love that, too). I do love wine but I have to drink on an occasional basis to keep the blood sugar down and to lose weight. Those recipe ideas look so delicious, I'm on board 100%!!! Report
This "diet" seems so healthy and clean eating. Although I don't drink wine, it will probably work for me. Thanx for sharing and enjoy your day. Report
Great recipes. Report
They all look very good. I must be hungry! Report
I LOVE this article and the RECIPES that it offers for eating a Med Diet. I can not dring wine daily. It has too much sugar for my diabetes. THANKS for your mention about wine NOT being the best choice of beverage. Report
Thank-you for the input. It seems I've been doing the Mediterranean diet without knowing it. Report
Very interesting Report
Thank's for this information..Good healthy food.. Report
Excellent article and wonderful recipes, thanks! Report
This type of diet is one of my favorites. The chicken with orzo is very good Report
We have a neighborhood of Middle-Eastern restaurants and I am putting them on my list to visit. Report
This looks delicious! Report
These look so delicious especially since I haven't had breakfast. I do desire to eat foods that I wouldn't have eaten 7-8 years ago. My taste buds are open...YUMMY. Report
Thanks! Report
Delicious! Report
This is a very healthy way to eat. Report
This really gives no conversion to a vegetarian or a vegan diet. It looks impossible for me, since I am a vegetarian.

Also, I just want to add, to disagree with the last poster, not all chicken are free range. That's really not true at all! Most chicken are raised in cages, and never see the light of day. But many are allowed to walk around inside a building, yet there is no light, and often when workers come in, they step on the poor chickens and injure them. Chickens aren't given the good care that you think they are. You need to buy organic, free range chicken, if that's a concern of yours. Report
Dark chicken meat has 2 times the nutrients as light meat, a long time a go McDonalds used 1/3 dark meat in the nuggets until the fad for white meat came on the market. Beef has a lot of nutrients that chicken & fish do not, as long as it is natural without hormones & G.M.O. Chicken fat no longer has the cholesterol it had in the 1950's as the chickens are younger & leaner and all chickens are now free range even if it does not say on the package.Chicken skin now will help to lower cholesterol.. Report
Nice! Report
interesting Report
It looks like I am eating a Mediterrian diet without trying! Good for me. Report
great ideas thanks for sharing Report
Love this one. Report
I use the DASH diet,it is rated #1 for the past 6 years,it is similar but less strict, my pharmacist last week advised me to include more beans,fish,olive oil & nuts in my diet. I think the wine might help me raise my blood pressure it is 80/50 most days,walking raises it. I am also advised that my cholesterol is below the minimum to be healthy so advised to eat more foods with cholesterol and avoid low fat dairy, as it is harming my organs and brain with not enough. I was also advised to include lot of salty foods, I think I will add more salt to healthy foods instead at every meal. So, with my medical health conditions I will include the beans,fish,fruit,vegetables,wine,wh
ite meat,chicken,olive oil & nuts,but no low fat foods for me. Report
GREAT way to eat1 Report
I have made a few and we still enjoy them. I am maintaining my goal weight, Report
Nowhere in the cited article in the NEJM, a low-fat dairy is listed as beneficial. In fact, the low-fat control group did the worst of the three in this study. Low-fat dairy (except milk) has too many additives such as gums, polysaccharides, starches, and stabilizers which negate health benefits of removing fat. Report
looks tasty! Report
Ei am looking for a Mediterrnean diet plan....I do better With day 1 eat this for 1 for lunch eat this, day 1 for dinner eat this...and then they give u either a week or a month plan. Any suggestions, books or does spark people have a plan? I am anxious to get started but I need some structure that I could use with some flexibility
Mediterranean foods are great for heart health and weight loss, but the Mediterranean lifestyle is so much more than food. It's slowing down, enjoying the company during meals, savoring each bite, using flavorful spices and herbs, getting outside, walking (a LOT) and generally paying more attention to life in general. Adopting all of those habits makes a person much healthier, and if starting with the deliciousness of Mediterranean food is step one, then so much the better. We went to Greece last month and it was WONDERFUL. Report
You do not have to drink the wine if you don't want it. There are many facets to following a Mediterranean-style lifestyle. The wine is just one recommendation - it is not set in stone. Obviously if it is against your religious beliefs, causes adverse health risks, or is not palatable then don't include it. My dad's family physician told him grape juice is a good substitute. Report
I love my red wine, fish and vegetables...looking forward to using the Mediterranean Diet as my weight loss guide to healthier eating. Report
Red wine is most prevalent in Greek, Italian and Spanish cuisine....white wine doesn't have the same antioxidant properties as red wine.... Report