Mediterranean: a Heart-healthy Diet – Meal Plan for Beginners
If you’ve been thinking about preventing lifestyle-related diseases and complications like type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart attack, then this is for you.
The Mediterranean diet was widely adopted in the ‘80s by Americans in the United States as a solution to cardiovascular diseases and other lifestyle-related diseases that often result in premature death, after observing the eating habits of countries in the Mediterranean region (predominantly Italy and Greece) in the ‘60s.
Reading on, you’ll find out exactly what the Mediterranean diet entails, what the Mediterranean diet meal plan consists of, what is not allowed on the Mediterranean diet menu and how the diet is one of the healthiest dietary plans for you.
But before then, let us take a look at a brief history of the diet we are about to study.
HISTORY OF THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
The idea was first publicized by American biologist, Ancel Keys, and his wife, Margaret Keys, a chemist, in the year 1975. But it wasn’t till the ‘90s that it began to get serious public acclaim.
The Mediterranean diet seemed quite enigmatic back then: Even though the people of the Mediterranean ate high levels of fat, they had far lower rates of cardiovascular diseases when compared to other countries like the United States where the fat consumption was essentially the same.
A lot of studies have been done on the diet since then, and there is no doubt that the Mediterranean diet is the preferred dietary option for heart health, even above low-fat diets.
WHAT IS THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
As earlier stated, the diet is one which was created from the study of the traditional cuisine choices of the Italians, French, Greeks, and people of the other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
A simple Mediterranean diet menu is one that contains large amounts of vegetables, olive oil, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. There is no single or general definition for this diet, but it has to contain all the above in high quantities before it can be considered a Mediterranean diet.
You can also see that this diet is majorly plant-based. A little amount of animal products is also required in the Mediterranean diet meal plan, but not too much.
Now that we know what this interesting diet entails, let’s find out why it is a healthy diet for the heart.
HOW THE DIET IS A HEART-HEALTHY DIET
Although an average Mediterranean diet menu consists of olive oil and nuts which are known fats, it has been shown by studies to be much healthier than low-fat diets which were created for the sole purpose of protecting the heart from cardiovascular diseases.
One study , conducted on 7,447 adults between the ages of 55 and 80 was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study showed that consuming the foods classified as “Mediterranean” reduced the risk of having heart-related diseases by about 30% when compared to low-fat diets.
So how does the Mediterranean diet meal plan make this possible?
It helps reduce chronic inflammation, a risk factor for heart diseases, by at least 29% . It also helps reduce insulin resistance and improve glucose metabolism. These play very important roles in considerably reducing one’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
WHAT DOES THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET CONSIST OF?
As stated before, the diet menu is one that is made up of large portions of vegetables, olive oil, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. There may be variations in how you prepare your diet and meal plan, but the above must be in it, and large amounts.
But the diet entails a bit more than the above, with a little red wine (a glass) and a little physical activity also being involved. Also, you need a moderate intake of dairy products as well as fish, beans, and eggs from time to time.
You can also decide to take some red meat, but make sure consumption is limited.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED ON THIS DIET?
The diet is not all-encompassing. You cannot have your cake and eat it – literally. All forms of sugars are highly frowned upon. Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, and so on, are a big NO when following this meal plan.
Also, highly processed foods are not to be taken under any circumstances. Refined oils (like soybean oil), refined grains (like white bread), processed meats (like hot dogs and other processed sausages) and trans fats (like margarine) are to be avoided like a plague.
Remember, if you wish to see results in your lifestyle and general health over a long period, you must be willing to say “no” to all these refined food items and be committed to the diet for a long-term result.
You should, therefore, pay attention to the labels of every single thing you eat, and as much as possible, avoid the above listed because they are dangerous for you and your progress with this diet.
It is worthy of note that all referenced studies took 5 years or more for standard results to be gotten. This means that for a period of half a decade, the test subjects were involved in consuming the right foods as mentioned above and not getting involved with sugary items and other prohibited foods.
The same should apply to you. You cannot expect overnight success with the Mediterranean diet. You must be willing to go the whole nine yards if you want to have better general health and a healthier heart. Making this diet your healthy eating lifestyle from now on will pay off in the long run.
Remember, the test subjects went on for half a decade. If test subjects could go that far along, you who want a lot more in your life should be willing to do even more. And you can.