Mediterranean diet California

Classic, Paleo Mediterranean diet, Pescatarian, Vegetarian and Vegan.
Healthy diets to take care of your heart and enjoy your meal

Eating right may help protect your brain health in old age, according to four new studies.

Meals from the sunny Mediterranean have been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart and longer life, along with a reduced risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Now you can add lowering your risk for dementia to the ever growing list of reasons to follow the Mediterranean diet or one of its dietary cousins.


If you're looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet are tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.


Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol that's more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil 
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise

American Heart Association

Mediterranean-style diets are often close to dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, but do not follow them exactly.

“Extra-virgin olive oil is perhaps the principal ingredient of this type of diet, which is used both for cooking and adding to salads. The goal is using 50 grams (about 4 tablespoons) or more per day. Sofrito is a sauce prepared with onion and tomato simmered with olive oil, which can be consumed at least two times a week. It is sometimes prepared with garlic and herbs.”

“Nuts are another important feature with a daily serving of 30 grams of mixed nuts recommended. That includes 15 grams of walnuts, 7.5 grams of almonds, and 7.5 grams of hazelnuts (the average almonds can has 30 grams of nuts). Nuts contain many substances that are beneficial -- including certain fats that protect the cardiovascular system and antioxidants including vitamin E and phenolics.”

He continues, “Monounsaturated fat consumption, including oleic acid present in almonds, may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and perhaps raise the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Alcohol, on the other hand, lowers the blood pressure when used in moderate amounts (1-2 glasses per day); however, drinking larger amounts causes exactly the opposite effect and is associated with many health problems, including an increased risk of stroke.”

Dr. Restrepo points out a large study from Spain called PREDIMED which compared the frequency of bad cardiovascular events (sudden death, heart attacks and stroke) between the Mediterranean and low fat diets. He explains, “The study included 7,447 persons aged 55-80 years old with cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The total intake of calories was not restricted, while physical activity was not promoted. The major finding of the study was that the Mediterranean diet reduced all cardiovascular events as compared to the low fat diet. 

“In particular, stroke was decreased by almost 40 percent, which is one of the largest effects of a preventive intervention in medicine,” he adds. “This effect favoring the Mediterranean diet was so large that the PREDIMED trial was stopped prematurely after an interim analysis.”

He continues, “Importantly in this study, the persons assigned to the Mediterranean diet received instructions to avoid soda drinks, bakery goods, sweets, spreads and red or processed meats. Sodas were limited to less than a drink per day, while only three servings per week of bakery products, sweets, and pastries were allowed.”

Another study showed that the Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk of developing diabetes, which is a major problem in the Hispanic community and is a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.

Harvard Medical School

This week, a preliminary study in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that older women in Spain who ate a traditional Mediterranean diet enhanced with extra-virgin olive oil were less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

To be sure, it’s no shock that a tasty, wholesome diet that’s already been proven to sharply reduce the number of heart attacks can also help to fight breast cancer. “Am I surprised that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for breast cancer? No, because it seems to be beneficial across the board,” says Dr. Beth Overmoyer, a breast cancer specialist at the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Comprehensive Cancer Center

Michigan Medicine

Bounty of the Mediterranean.