You can learn more about Veronica in the bio section below.
When we look to the science it is very clear that nutrition can play a role in preventing and managing heart disease. Specifically, the Mediterranean diet is a powerhouse when it comes to choosing a way of eating that can lower blood pressure and manage cholesterol levels.
There are a few reasons why the Mediterranean eating pattern is recommended for prevention and management of heart disease, but before we get into that let’s look at the research.
Studies show that individuals following a Mediterranean style of eating have lower risk of developing heart disease.
The PREDIMED research trial was a hallmark primary prevention trial that was done in Spain. It was designed to compare three different diets in individuals at risk of heart disease. The three different diets were:
1) a control group (participants were encouraged to eat a reduced fat diet)
2) a higher fat Mediterranean diet with emphasis on extra virgin olive oil
3) a higher fat Mediterranean diet with emphasis on nuts
The results show that individuals that followed a Mediterranean diet that was supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts had a 30% lower risk of getting a stroke, heart attack or dying from cardiac causes; which is quite compelling. During the analysis, researchers did not find a difference between the olive oil or the nut Mediterranean diets. This simply means eating the Mediterranean way can lower your risk of or getting another heart attack or stroke, additionally, it can also delay the progression of disease.
The other hallmark study to highlight was the Lyon Diet Heart Study which was conducted on individuals living with heart disease. This study was a secondary prevention trial; which means, the participants in this study were those who are living with cardiovascular disease or have already experienced a heart attack or stroke.
During this research trial eating a Mediterranean diet pattern was compared to a low-fat way of eating. What this study found was that individuals who ate the Mediterranean way had a 72% lower risk of getting a repeat heart attack or dying from heart-related causes. These results are strictly attributed to diet, which makes these results so compelling.
So what principles of the Mediterranean diet pattern help prevent and manage heart disease?
1) It’s a high-fat diet
Both research studies compared the Mediterranean diet to a low fat diet. But don’t think you can go ahead and eat any type of fat. These participants ate unsaturated fatty acids which are found in foods like olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and fish.
2) Consumption of plant based foods is encouraged.
The Mediterranean diet is considered a plant based diet because it promotes the consumption of plant based foods. What are plants?
These plant foods provide fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Eating these foods leaves less room for unhealthy foods like processed grains and animal products.
3) It emphasizes eating more protein from plants than animal meats. (Note from The Mediterranean Movement: Learn about more Mediterranean Diet principles here. )
So where do we find protein in plants? Well they can be found in our:
Legumes – aiming to eat these at least 3 times a week is a great place to start
Nuts – choosing a variety of unsalted nuts can help meet your protein needs
Plant protein should be eaten more often than animal protein. When you do choose protein from animals it is encouraged to eat fish more often than poultry, and poultry more often than red meat like beef, pork and lamb.
In summary, make sure you are eating
If you follow these principles you will be well on your way to eating the Mediterranean way to manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and delay the progression of heart disease. If you or someone you know is living with heart disease, come join me on my Instagram page @the.heart.dietitian or sign up for my monthly newsletter
Hi! I’m Veronica from The Heart Dietitian. I believe that you have control over your heart disease by eating well. Working as a Registered Dietitian in cardiac rehabilitation it was obvious that my clients found heart healthy nutrition information confusing and often misleading. It was difficult for my clients to change their eating behaviours because they didn’t have access to evidenced based information they can trust. I now run The Heart Dietitian to simplify heart healthy eating to help individuals lower their cholesterol, blood pressure and delay the progression of heart disease because people deserve care that is straightforward. If you are living with heart disease and want to increase your confidence to choose foods to lower your cholesterol, blood pressure and strengthen your heart book your FREE CALL to work with me!