Your taste buds don't have to suffer for your heart's sake: Studies show that a Mediterranean-style diet, with its emphasis on monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, walnuts, and even dark chocolate), is actually better for your cardiovascular health than low-fat eating. How much good can you do yourself? One study of more than 2,000 seniors in 11 countries found that those who ate the Mediterranean way were nearly 30 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease. (And they cut their risk of dying of any cause by 26 percent.)
PLENTY OF Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and poultry for protein, olive oil as a fat source
VERY LITTLE Refined grains, red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages
4 Mediterranean Recipes to Try
The following recipes have been reviewed by Sari Greaves, RD CDN, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and registered dietitian at Step Ahead Weight Loss Center in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Here's a fiber-rich recipe that's overall heart healthy in terms of ingredients and cooking method. If you do not have a Dutch oven you can use any large pot with a lid. It's great that the recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons of heart-healthy olive oil and includes low-calorie flavor boosters, such as chicken broth and lemon juice. If you have high blood pressure, substitute a reduced-sodium broth.
Free Range Chicken with Olives
If you're watching your waistline opt for chicken breast, which is a leaner cut than thigh pieces. A vegetable centerpiece topped with a sensible serving of chicken (around 4 ounces) adds more fiber to your meal, leaving you full on fewer calories. If you do not have a food scale, here is a visual: a 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of a woman's hand.
Sausage, Grilled Pepper, and Tomato Bruschetta
Tomatoes, Bell peppers... who could ask more for a more antioxidant-spiked dish! This recipe can make a great addition to a "tapas" menu, powerful mini-bites of flavorful foods. To bump up the fiber, use a thick whole grain bread instead of French bread. Bonus points for the recipe substitutions provided for chorizo, such as the feta cheese and pine nuts.
Mediterranean Marinated Salad
A vegetable centerpiece topped with protein and drizzled with heart-healthy fats makes for a perfect example of a Mediterranean meal. To accompany this dish, add a 1/2 cup whole grains (try whole wheat couscous, brown rice, or quinoa). If you have high blood pressure, exercise caution with the anchovy fillets and capers, as both are sodium bombs. Instead, substitute rinsed, canned beans, cubed tofu, grilled chicken, or canned salmon or tuna.