Of all the trendy diets out there, the Mediterranean diet is one of the most proven. It’s not so much a diet as it is an eating style, and there’s no gimmick or product that you need to buy if you want to follow it. The idea is simply to eat the way people in countries along the Mediterranean Sea do. And a recent review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found it ideal for heart health.
A Mediterranean-style diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes; using olive oil as a primary fat source; and eating dairy, eggs, poultry, and fish in moderation, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends the diet. It can also include red meat, but more sparingly. Oh, and feel free to have a glass of wine with dinner (seriously). So far, studies and clinical trials on the Mediterranean diet point to a lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, and even some cancers.
The American College of Cardiology’s review suggests the diet as a heart-healthy choice that falls somewhere between veganism — which can be healthy, but can lead to deficiencies over time without proper supplementation — and the typical American diet that’s full of highly processed meat. In this review, eggs and dairy were included.
“There is no clear consensus among nutrition experts on the role of dairy products and eggs in heart disease risk, however we allowed for them in the Pesco-Mediterranean diet,” lead study author James O’Keefe said in a release. “Low-fat yogurt and cheeses are preferred; butter and hard cheese are discouraged due to a high concentration of saturated fats and salt. Eggs contain beneficial nutrients and can be a healthy substitute for red meat; however, we recommend no more than five yolks be consumed per week.”
The key aspects of the diet are a foundation of plant-based whole foods and eating fish in place of meat. No matter what your nutrition plan entails, swapping in seafood for meat a few times a week is even recommended in the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In the review, researchers recommend intermittent fasting along with a Mediterranean diet. In this case, they suggest following one of the most common forms of intermittent fasting: eating within a time frame of 8-12 hours each day and fasting for the rest of the day. Studies have shown that it may have a host of health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease.
“Our ancient ancestors did not have access to an unlimited supply of food throughout the year. Nor did they routinely eat three large meals, plus snacks, daily,” O’Keefe said. “Focusing on fresh whole foods, along with fish, bestows a range of health benefits, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular health. The Pesco-Mediterranean diet with daily time-restricted eating is an ideal cardioprotective diet.”