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Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Mediterranean diet derives its name from the Mediterranean region, including Greece, Italy, Spain, and Morocco where intake of olive oil is high. Abundant plant foods and fresh fruit characterize this type of diet, in which olive oil is the principal source of fat. Fish and poultry are consumed in moderate amounts and red meat is ingested only sparingly. Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts normally with meals (1-2 five ounce glasses of wine a day for men, 1 five ounce glass a day for women).
Overall, the Mediterranean-eating pattern has been associated with a high life expectancy and a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. The Mediterranean diet lowers C-reactive protein levels. C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation and is correlated with heart disease. The positive effect of the Mediterranean diet may be related to antioxidant components of fruits and vegetables. Also, the olive oil consumed as part of this diet may reduce the formation of blood clots and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, a type of fat that has positive effects on cholesterol levels in the body. Traditional Mediterranean diets are low in saturated fat (the type that raises blood cholesterol), very low in trans fat (which also raises blood cholesterol), and rich in unsaturated fats. These diets are also rich in starch, fiber, and phytochemicals that support health.
Also important to the reduction of heart disease risk with the Mediterranean lifestyle is the emphasis on the social element of eating, both during the time of meal preparation as well as in the pacing of the meal when it is eaten. The meals are typically enjoyed in a lengthy and relaxing fashion with after lunch siestas that may relieve daily stress.Be an olive oil connoisseur! See the following links:
- Krummel D, et al. Medical Nutrition Therapy for Cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors: Specific diets for prevention and treatment. Kris-Etheron PM and Burns JH: Cardiovascular nutrition. American Dietetic Association. 1998.