Mediterranean diet earns much-deserved praise
Several weeks ago The New England Journal of Medicine released the results of a large study advocating the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. To summarize, the study proposed that the control groups who followed a diet consisting of a high intake of olive oil, nuts, vegetables and whole grains, a moderate consumption of lean meats such as fish and chicken, and red wine, and a limited consumption of red and processed meats, dairy products and sweets, lowered their risk for heart disease.
The study was the largest of its kind and supported earlier research showing similar results. The study was not perfect, but has some application for the benefits of eating better.
How is this diet any different from the thousands of other diets touted to promote better health? The Mediterranean diet study looked at heart disease risk. Other popular diets promote quick weight loss, cancer prevention or blood-pressure management.
Are there common threads in all of these diets? Absolutely. Most of us would have better cholesterol and blood-pressure levels, lower our risk for heart disease, lose weight and feel better if we adopted just a few of the characteristics these diets promote:
- •Eat more vegetables.
- •Choose high-fiber grains.
- •Limit red meat and processed meat and choose fish and chicken regularly.
- •Eat fresh fruit instead of sweets.
- •Use unsaturated fats instead of saturated ones.
- •Exercise a little every day.
The key is making lifestyle changes and sticking with them. The hard part is adapting them to your everyday lifestyle.
What is the take away from this study? We can all stand to eat better and exercise more. Moderation is the key and extreme restrictive diets are hard to sustain for long periods of time.
So eat a few nuts, drink a little wine, enjoy fish several times a week and forgo the processed foods and red meat you enjoy too often.
Replacing some of the bad habits with good ones usually results in better health.
Jennifer Burton, a registered dietitian, works for the McConnell Heart Health Center.