Mediterranean Diet Reduces Stroke Risk
by Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD
The Mediterranean Diet has long been a standout for its impressive cardiovascular protective effects. Known to help reduce blood pressure, the Mediterranean Diet is heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and includes seafood, olive oil, and red wine, with smaller amounts of animal proteins.
The Diet is really a combination of cuisines from around the Mediterranean Sea, including the middle east, Italy, and north Africa.
One of the best things about the Mediterranean Diet is that it tastes great! Obviously, clients are more likely to be successful at any eating plan when the food tastes better. Food in the Mediterranean style include lots of herbs and spices, adding great flavor without extra calories and excess salt. While there may be some new-to-you (to the client, anyway) foods, it does not have to be particularly complex to prepare.
Since May is Stroke Awareness Month, it seemed appropriate to focus on this fantastic way of eating for reducing risk. To assist clients with moving to a Mediterranean Diet, focus first on shifting to a plant-based diet by including more fruits and vegetables and switching to primarily whole grains. Exchanging other fats for primarily extra virgin olive oil and incorporating nuts, seeds, and other health fats such as avocados is another easy switch. Finally, teach clients to focus on flavor through the use of fresh and dried herbs and spices.
Here are a few great resources for you and your clients:
- OldWayspt.org including a description of what it is, a glossary of terms with definitions of some of the more unusual foods it includes, a handy Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, and even recipes and meal plans
- American Heart Association’s Mediterranean Diet page, which provides a simple breakdown of each food/food group for meal planning
- Mediterranean Diet for Dummies by Meri Raffetto, RD and Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RD
Of course, the Mediterranean way of eating isn’t just about the food. It’s also about the way the food is eaten – and the lifestyle of folks who live in the Mediterranean region. Significant among these lifestyle factors are higher levels of physical activity and more social connectedness than is typical in America. That said, as we teach clients to incorporate this healthy and delicious way of eating into their lifestyle, we would do well to also encourage them to include these other important factors.