Heart Health for Every Meal: The Nearly Perfect Diet
If you’d like to support heart health with every meal, here is a sample meal plan you can follow! Eating the Mediterranean way is tasty and quite simple.
“One should eat to live, not live to eat.” –Moliere
Would you like to follow a diet that may help prevent heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Type 2 diabetes? Of course you would! In addition to lowering your blood pressure with this diet, you can also lower your weight and cholesterol. This high-fiber, heart-healthy diet includes red wine, berries of any kind, snacks such as pistachios and delicious seasonings like fresh garlic. There is no one perfect diet, but this one comes close!
What is it? It’s the Mediterranean diet. Many recent studies show that the Mediterranean diet is more effective than a low-fat diet in lowering your cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
The basis of this fantastic diet is vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans/legumes, grains, pasta, potatoes, olive oil, Greek yogurt and cheese, all eaten daily. Weekly, you can eat eggs, poultry, fish and sweets. A few times a month, red meat is allowed. Red wine is also included in moderation, which equates to about one glass daily.
Eating the Mediterranean way is tasty and quite simple. If you’d like to support heart health with every meal, here is a sample meal plan you can follow:
Breakfast (the most important meal of the day!)
½ cup steel-cut oatmeal topped with ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, ½ cup raspberries, 10 walnuts and a dash of cinnamon
Apple slices with 1 tablespoon nut butter (dip or spread on the slices)
1 whole wheat pita bread, cut into triangles (for scooping hummus). (For a gluten-free diet, use rice crackers or vegetables.)
½ cup hummus (see this recipe to make your own)
1 cup sliced red peppers or carrots (for scooping hummus)
1 kiwi fruit
1 ounce pistachios (about 40)
1 satsuma or small orange
3 oz cooked salmon
1 cup brown rice drizzled with olive oil
1 cup asparagus, roasted with garlic and olive oil
½ cup fresh pineapple
1 glass red wine (if desired)
Whole grain crackers with mozzarella cheese
Why does this diet work?
You may have heard of the “French Paradox,” where French people are known to eat lots of fat and high-fat dairy products yet have very low occurrences of cardiovascular disease. The Mediterranean diet works much in the same way.
Although the Mediterranean diet has been criticized as being high in fat, what really matters is the type of fat that is consumed. Extra virgin or virgin olive oil and nuts contain monounsaturated fats, which are known to help lower cholesterol levels and decrease inflammation in the body. Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which also decrease inflammation and may decrease heart disease risk factors.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (circa. 460-370 B.C.), known today as “the father of Western medicine,” prescribed garlic for a wide range of conditions and illnesses. Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion and fatigue. Fresh garlic, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, contains potent anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and may decrease risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which decreases inflammation. Red wine also contains quercetin, a flavonol, which is antiviral and decreases inflammation. More studies need to done on quercetin, but so far, the results have been positive.
By replacing meat with beans, legumes and nuts, fiber intake is increased and these foods contain a more desirable type of fat that causes less inflammation to the body. Plus, the majority of this diet is fruits, vegetables, pasta, grains, cereals, potatoes, nuts and legumes. Just adding more fruits and vegetables alone will improve most of our diets.
The Mediterranean diet is one that should be followed over a lifetime. The foods are palatable and simple, which makes it an easy diet to stick with. The added bonus is that you won’t have to give up red wine if you are already drinking it. Our lifestyle and overall health in the U.S. is much different from those in Mediterranean countries (Italy, Greece), and we should take lessons from how they live to improve our health. Those lessons include eating healthy, exercising daily, spending time with loved ones, getting adequate sleep and making time to take care of yourself. Salute!
Linda J. Kees, R.D., L.D. has been a registered dietitian for over 23 years. She is the owner of Expert Nutrition Consulting, LLC in Boise, ID. Her specialties include endurance sports nutrition, weight loss and food allergies for adults and children.
For more information about a HEALTHY DIET, WEIGHT MANAGEMENT and LIFESTYLE with HERBALIFE, contact me TODAY!
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