The diet wars might finally have a winner — even if it’s one that has been around for two decades and has never been especially trendy. The Mediterranean Diet — an eating plan rich in olive oil, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and fish — lowers the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events better than a low-fat diet, according to a recent study.
This new data is just the latest to establish the diet’s heart-health benefits. We’ve also known for a long time that these same foods can boost brain health, thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts and fish.
Eating the Mediterranean way sounds pretty great. Participants in the study drank about seven glasses of wine a week. They had almost four tablespoons of olive oil every day, plus a small handful of nuts. They were eating five daily servings of fruit, three of vegetables, and fatty fish such as salmon three times a week.
One of the keys to the diet’s success is that eating fat is not necessarily a bad thing — as long as you’re eating the right kind of fat. The healthy monounsaturated fat found in nuts, avocados, and olive oil — all part of the Mediterranean diet — can boost brain and heart health while helping you feel full. So even though you’re eating foods rich in calories, consuming healthy fat can help you eat less.
Another reason for the Mediterranean approach’s enduring appeal is that diets focused on reducing fat are very hard to stick to. Even in this study, the participants who followed a low-fat regimen had a hard time reducing fat intake. Their diets were 30 percent fat, whereas low-fat diets typically contain only 10 percent.
No question, eating a Mediterranean-inspired diet rich in good fats, fresh fruits, and vegetables can have a total-body benefit. But how do you apply these guidelines to everyday meal planning?
Take breakfast, for instance. It may sound like a cliché, but it really is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast delivers the fuel that your body needs to get going; and studies, especially on children, have shown that a healthy morning meal improves concentration and problem-solving ability.
Serving your kids Mediterranean-inspired breakfasts they’ll like doesn’t have to be difficult. A berry parfait with nonfat yogurt and nuts or a fruit and nut butter smoothie is a fast meal full of fruit and healthy fat. If your family prefers savory breakfasts, try a simple wrap with eggs and avocado or a frittata made with vegetables.
The most important thing to remember when choosing a diet is that eating wisely isn’t about being trendy, it’s about a way of life. The key is to find healthy habits that you can stick with for the long run to prevent disease, manage your weight and improve longevity.