Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Genetics, tobacco use, family
history, obesity, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, stress and diet all contribute to this alarming statistic. And while some heart-healthy changes are easier to make than others, finding a balanced diet that appeals to the entire family, while also possibly
lowering your risk for heart disease, might be easier and more enjoyable than you think.
Studies have shown that the rates of heart disease as well as certain types of cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s were lower for those living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers were able to determine
that diet played a significant role in keeping the community healthy and living longer. The fundamental components of that diet are known as the Mediterranean diet.
Philip Krause, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses what makes the Mediterranean diet so great for your heart:
Focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. On a typical American plate, meat is the star. On a Mediterranean diet plate, meat plays second fiddle to fresh fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains. When the focus on the meal shifts
toward fresh fruits and vegetables, the result is a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.
Puts the salt shaker away. Excessive salt consumption can raise your blood pressure, which may damage the arteries leading to your heart. And there’s no doubt about it: Americans consume too much salt. The Mediterranean diet diversifies
the spice rack, favoring spices and herbs over salt.
Cuts down on red meat. Red meat is sidelined in favor of proteins that contain healthy fats like fish, poultry and nuts. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can be very beneficial.
Makes olive oil the main source of fat. Just say no to butter. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and this type of fat may help bring high cholesterol levels in the right direction. It also may help regulate insulin levels in those suffering
from type 2 diabetes.
Allows for a glass of red wine. This is a great perk for the older adherents of the Mediterranean diet. When consumed in moderation (one four-ounce serving per day), red wine can be beneficial to your heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol
levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
Limits portion sizes and cuts the carbs. Just because the Mediterranean diet is healthy doesn’t mean recommended foods can be consumed in unlimited quantities. Watch your portion sizes as you would with any diet or dish. If both weight loss
and heart health are goals, limiting portion sizes along with carbohydrate intake—reducing the consumption of bread, potatoes, rice by 50%—can markedly assist in weight loss.
Share your heart-healthy Mediterranean diet recipes with us on Facebook.
A dash of salt here and there for flavoring can’t hurt, right? While moderate amounts of sodium in your daily diet are fine, it’s often easy to eat more than necessary. Look on any label – especially those of pre-packaged and more-processed foods—and sodium
is almost certain to be one of the ingredients.
The American Heart Association recommends 2,300 mg daily as the highest daily acceptable level, and if you are over 51 years, African American or have heart disease including high blood pressure, the recommendation is 1,500 mg.
Too much salt can lead to health problems, including cardiovascular disease particularly hypertension. For this reason, it’s never a bad idea to learn some quick ways to pass on the salt.
Mary Bennett, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, offers the following tips to help reduce your daily sodium intake:
What do you do to limit your sodium consumption? What is one salty food you couldn’t live without?