A landmark study found that a Mediterranean diet is best for reducing risk for heart disease compared to the oft-prescribed low-fat diet.
Published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, researchers in Spain followed nearly 7,500 subjects for five years in a multi-center diet and cardiovascular risk factor clinical trial.
At the onset of the study, subjects were randomly assigned to one of three dietary interventions: 1) a low-fat diet; 2) a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil; or 3) a Mediterranean diet supplemented with an ounce of nuts (almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts) every day.
The participants were given diet instruction regularly throughout the trial by dietitians along with menu plans, shopping lists and those in the Mediterranean diet trials received either extra virgin olive oil or nuts weekly. After five years, the researcher found that those who followed the Med diet with olive oil reduced their risk of cardiovascular death or major events by 30% compared to those following the low-fat diet. Those following the Med diet + nuts reduced their risk by 28%, compared to the low-fat diet group.
The authors conclude that a diet rich in plant-based fats is healthier than a low-fat diet that is carbohydrate-rich. Since unsaturated fats, which are found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, don’t negatively impact blood cholesterol levels and they don’t produce any type of blood sugar or insulin spikes like carbohydrate-rich foods do. A Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains; nuts and seed; beans; and lots of seafood and lean protein sources.
The authors of the study cite many advantages to eating a Mediterranean diet, including better blood sugar control, lower levels of inflammation and reduced risk for metabolic syndrome, excess abdominal fat, and type 2 diabetes.
Why the Mediterranean Diet is Best for Your Heart’s Health
The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the tastiest ways to eat. Here’s how you can adopt the heart-smart principles of it:
- Use olive oil as your primary source of fat
- Eat more than 5servings of fruits and veggies every day
- Enjoy legumes 3 or more times a week
- Eat fish and seafood at least 3 times a week
- Enjoy poultry more than red meats
- Limit red meats to once a week
- Enjoy a glass of wine more days of the week!
- Limit butter, sweets, and baked goods