Eating healthy foods can be one of the most important actions you can take to protect your heart, but the definition of “healthy” can sometimes seem confusing. Recent research has changed the longtime belief that a healthy diet is also low in fat. Instead, your doctor may recommend eating the right kinds of fat that can be found in a Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean Diet refers to the way people eat in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. People in these countries eat a lot of fish, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables and often have better health outcomes and longer life expectancy than people in the United States. Although the diet is high in fat, it is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, which can be good for your heart.
The diet focuses on eating healthy fats, and includes fish, olive oil, nuts, and other foods that have high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can help lower blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. You should avoid saturated fats and transfats.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, legumes and vegetable oils as part of a heart-healthy diet. It also recommends limiting sodium, saturated and transfats, added sugars, and alcohol. This is considered a healthy eating plan in the U.S.
Some ways to add more healthy fats into your diet include:
- Eating a handful of nuts
- Adding nut butter to an apple
- Eating fish 2-3 times a week
- Adding avocado to a salad
- Using full-fat salad dressings and mayonnaise.
The primary differences between the Mediterranean Diet and the healthy U.S. eating plan is that the Mediterranean Diet has less dairy and more fruits. You should discuss any changes to your diet with your doctor, and he or she can help you choose the healthy eating plan that is best for you.
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