Do you love carbs, fresh herbs and olive oil, red wine? If the answer is yes, then you'll love the Mediterranean diet. February is Heart Health Month, so there's no better time to start paying attention to food choices that are especially beneficial for heart health, including good fats like olive oil, nuts and fish, fruits, vegetable, whole grains, herbs and red wine (for some) in moderation. These items, which are rich in vitamins and antioxidants and thought to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (aka, the "bad" cholesterol), largely make up the cuisine of Mediterranean countries (such as Greece and Italy), where incidents of heart disease are lower then in the U.S.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is not really low in fat, but its main sources of fat - olive oil and oily fish as well as nuts, seeds and certain vegetables – contain primarily monounsaturated fats, which doesn’t raise blood cholesterol the way saturated fat does.
The Mediterranean diet is not for everyone, since we all have different backgrounds (medically and culturally) and live in different environments, but what I'm taking from it is this: eat simple, replacing processed boxed items with whole foods. I've heard of many people traveling abroad and just by eating the local homemade food, they feel healthier and even eliminate some of the nasty stomach issues that are often associated with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. Fat substitutes, processed sugars, preservatives and trans fats cannot be found in a meal made from foods plucked from a farm and served for dinner (neither can authentic taste for that matter).
There's another element to this too though, really enjoying and savoring your meal, emphasizing quality over quantity. The book "The Mediterranean Diet," says, "Beyond the ingredients themselves, eating the traditional Mediterranean way is a philosophy in itself: Life is for savoring, and food is a glorious and beautiful expression of life." How great is that?!
So, take it from our friends across the sea and try fresh ingredients simply prepared for dinner tonight.
Read more about lowering your cholesterol with heart healthy choices.