Your diet and your heart

Well-designed studies exist that demonstrate the effectiveness of one diet over another

Mediterranean fare may be your best bet

A dietary study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine followed 7,447 people in Spain. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet and the rest a low-fat diet. The study, designed to last five years, was ended early because those on the Mediterranean diet experienced 30 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease compared with the low-fat control group, most of whom did not change their dietary habits.

This is good news because few well-designed studies exist that demonstrate the effectiveness of one diet over another. There is some evidence that following a Mediterranean diet may also reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating mostly plant-based foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, soybeans)
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive and canola oils
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times per month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice per week
  • Drinking red wine in moderation
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends

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