Eating For A Healthy Heart With A Mediterranean-Style Diet

Keep your heart healthy with a Mediterranean-style diet and lifestyle.

Eating For A Healthy Heart With A Mediterranean-Style Diet photo

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet full of fresh, whole foods promotes good heart health.

Your heart is a muscle about the size of a fist, located in the centre of your chest. It continuously pumps blood around your body taking oxygen and nutrients to cells and removing carbon dioxide and waste materials from cells. In order for your heart to function really well, it requires a balanced healthy diet and lifestyle to sustain it. There has been lots of scientific research over the last 30 years investigating the Mediterranean-style Diet as a great approach to heart disease prevention. In this article, we will discuss the Mediterranean Diet and how you can adopt it to support your heart.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

There is no one Mediterranean Diet but a collection of eating habits traditionally found in the Mediterranean Sea region which have common food choices. The name was originally coined in the mid 1980’s during a study of eating habits and longevity. The study noticed that inhabitants of the Mediterranean region lived longer and had less incidence of heart disease. Since then, there has been scores of further research attempting to determine exactly how the Mediterranean Diet confers better health for a range of health conditions.

When we talk about the Mediterranean Diet, we are talking about different food groups (eg. dairy) and how often they are recommended to be eaten and how many portions. For example, more than 2 portions of vegetables to be eaten at every main meal. You will notice that some foods are eaten at every main meal, others daily or weekly.

Foods to be eaten daily at every main meal

  • Fruit: 1 to 2 portions with a variety of texture and colour, cooked or raw. A portion is 1 apple or banana or 80g berries.
  • Vegetables: more than 2 portions with a variety of colour and textures, cooked or raw. A portion is 2 tablespoons of cooked vegetable or a large handful of lettuce or 80g of cherry tomatoes.
  • Olive oil: drizzle over food as well as for cooking with, aiming to consume >4 tablespoons per day in total.
  • Complex Carbohydrate: 1 to 2 portions of preferably wholegrain bread or pasta or rice or other cereal. A portion is 80g uncooked rice or pasta or 2 medium slices of bread

Foods to be eaten daily

  • Dairy: 2 servings of yogurt or milk or cheese or cream or butter
  • Olives, nuts, seeds: 1 to 2 portions with a variety sources of nuts and seeds
  • Herbs, spices, garlic and onion: use extensively to add flavour from a wide range

Foods to be eaten weekly

  • Potatoes: 2 or less portions per week. A portion is a fist-sized raw potato
  • White meat: 2 portions per week of white meat such as chicken, turkey, rabbit. A portion is 120g raw meat, 100g cooked.
  • Fish and seafood: 2 or more portions per week for a range of fish and seafood. A portion is 120g raw or 100g cooked food.
  • Legumes: 2 or more portions per week of beans, peas, lentils, pulses. A portion is 80g uncooked or 160g cooked food.
  • Eggs: no more than 2 portions per week. A portion is 2 medium-sized raw eggs.
  • Red meat: no more than 2 portions per week of red meat such as beef, pork, lamb. A portion is 120g raw meat, 100g cooked.
  • Processed meat: no more than 1 portion per week of processed meats such as ham, bacon, sausage. A portion is 120g uncooked, 100g cooked food.
  • Sweets: no more than 2 portions per week of sweets such as cake, biscuit, pastries, cookies and candy foods.

Underpinning all of the food recommendations within the Mediterranean-style Diet is a healthy lifestyle: plenty of exercise, connection with others and good sleep and rest. Check out our article here on Six Top Tips To Prevent Heart Disease.

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Bach-Faig, A., et al. (2011) Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Health Nutrition, 14(12A), pp.2274–2284.