Your taste buds don’t have to suffer for your heart’s sake: The American Heart Association recommends a Mediterranean-style diet because research has demonstrated that its emphasis on monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, walnuts, and even dark chocolate), is actually better for your cardiovascular health than low-fat eating.
How much good can you do yourself? A 2019 review published in the journal Nutrients looked 50 of the highest quality studies on the Mediterranean diet and heart disease and found that people at high risk for heart troubles were 40 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease when they ate the Mediterranean way, and they were 34 percent less likely to die of heart disease. The eating approach was also tied to lower blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and weight.
Following the diet means eating plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and poultry for protein, olive oil as a fat source while trying to reduce your intake fo refined grains, red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, explains Sari Greaves, RDN, a nutritionist with LBS Nutrition, LLC in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
Four Mediterranean recipes to try
Here’s a rich-tasting recipe that’s overall heart-healthy in terms of ingredients and cooking method. If you do not have a ovenproof skillet, you can use any large pot with a lid. It’s great that the recipe calls for heart-healthy olive oil and includes low-calorie flavor boosters, such as capers and grape tomatoes.
If you’re watching your waistline opt for chicken breast, which is a leaner cut than thigh pieces. A vegetable centerpiece topped with a sensible serving of chicken (around 4 ounces) adds more fiber to your meal, leaving you full on fewer calories. If you do not have a food scale, here is a visual: a 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of a woman’s hand.
Basil, tomatoes, garlic—who could ask more for a more antioxidant-spiked dish! This recipe can make a great addition to a “tapas” menu, powerful mini-bites of flavorful foods. To bump up the fiber, use a thick whole grain bread instead of French bread.
A vegetable side dish topped with feta cheese and drizzled with heart-healthy fats makes for a perfect example of a Mediterranean meal. The bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion are loaded with healthy substances that can help protect your heart.