The Edmond Sun

April 22, 2013

Families can embrace a Mediterranean diet

Metro Creative Connection

EDMOND — Healthy eating is a top priority for many families. The search is always on for foods that taste good, appeal to the masses and provide adequate nutrition.

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been touted for years. New information has emerged that reveals the potential of the Mediterranean diet to reduce a person's risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a diet rich in fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and red wine can significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing heart-related ailments. The study was the first large, randomized clinical trial to evaluate the effects of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular health.

The research included more than 7,000 participants, each of whom were randomly given one of three different diets. These included a Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet including extra nuts and a typical low-fat diet. Some of the findings include:

• Overall risk for major cardiovascular events were lowered with the Mediterranean diet.

• A Mediterranean diet that included extra servings of nuts cut stroke risk by 46 percent.

• Extra servings of extra virgin olive oil reduced stroke risk by 33 percent.

• Although the low-fat diet was most effective at lowering participants' cholesterol, it was the least effective at preventing heart attack, stroke and deaths from cardiovascular disease. This evidence debunked the common philosophy that cholesterol is the major contributor to heart health risks.

According to the British Medical Journal, a Mediterranean diet does not only provide cardiovascular benefits. It also has been shown to reduce overall mortality, death from cancer and incidences of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The Mayo Clinic says that the diet is composed of recipes from regions that border the Mediterranean Sea. There is a heavy emphasis placed on vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and olive oil. Dairy, red meats and sweets are heavily limited.

Those interested in adopting a Mediterranean diet should realize it is largely a lifestyle change. Start by selecting fish and white meats over red meats. Fish can be enjoyed at least three times per week. Then incorporate more nuts, legumes and omega-rich oils into the diet. Supplementation with olive oil can include up to four tablespoons per day. Aim for eating three servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables daily.

Men and women should consult with a doctor before modifying their diet and their childrens’ diets.