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Mediterranean diet: Choose this heart-healthy diet option

Lifestyle

Mediterranean diet: Choose this heart-healthy diet option

The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan combining elements of Mediterranean-style cooking. Here's how to adopt the Mediterranean diet.
By Mayo Clinic staff

If you're looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet remain tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease..


Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

For this reason, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.


Key components of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Getting plenty of exercise.
  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month.
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional).


The diet also recognizes the importance of enjoying meals with family and friends.