If you’re on the hunt for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may just be the diet you truly need. It incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a hint of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — with other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Most healthy diets, some of which call for Mediterranean diet recipes for weight loss, include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, as well as limits the consumption of unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet are proven and tested, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.

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The Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet helps lower the risk of heart disease. The diet has also been linked with a lowered level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” type of cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits inside your arteries.

As a matter of fact, a meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults showed that following a Mediterranean diet was linked to a reduction of cardiovascular mortality risks, as well as overall mortality.

Furthermore, the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lowered incidence of cancer as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented along with extra virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a lowered risk of breast cancer.

The Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet

Here are some of the things the Mediterranean diet emphasizes on:

  • Eating mainly plant-based dishes, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
  • Replacing butter with other healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor dishes.
  • Limiting red meat intake to no more than a couple of times a month.
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
  • Enjoying meals with loved ones and colleagues.
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional).
  • Getting a ton of exercise.

The Mediterranean Diet: Putting it All Together

There’s no doubt that the Mediterranean diet is a delicious and a healthy way to eat. A lot of people who switch to this style of eating say they’ll never eat and any other way again. Here are some precise steps to help you get started:

  • Eating veggies and fruits — and make a switch to whole grains: An abundance and variety of plant foods should make up a large part of your meals.
  • Going nuts: Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a fast snack. Choose natural-your fast snack. Choose natural peanut butter and ditch the manufactured ones.
  • Pass on the butter: Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for either butter or margarine.
  • Spicing it Up: Herbs and spices make food tasty and both are also rich in health-promoting substances.

Go fish: You should eat your fill of fish once or twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are some of the best healthy options and will often be mentioned in your everyday Mediterranean diet book.