Go Greek!

The Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of death in patients with a history of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease and stroke, according to yet another study on the diet's impact.

"The Mediterranean diet is widely recognised as one of the healthier nutrition habits in the world," said one of the researchers, Professor Giovanni de Gaetano, from IRCCS Neuromed Institute in Pozzilli, Italy. He added, “We found that among those with a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet, death from any cause was reduced by 37% in comparison to those who poorly adhered to this dietary regime."

Mediterranean diet

While the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet have been well documented, research so far has focused on the general population, which is mainly composed of healthy people. So the researchers wanted to explore if this diet is optimal for those with a history of cardiovascular diseases as well.

Participants enrolled in the Moli-sani project, a prospective epidemiological study that randomly recruited around 25,000 adults living in the Italian region of Molise."Among the participants, we identified 1,197 people who reported a history of cardiovascular disease at the time of enrolment into Moli-sani," said lead author of the research, Marialaura Bonaccio.

Food intake was recorded using the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) food frequency questionnaire. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was appraised with a nine-point Mediterranean diet score (MDS).During a median follow-up of 7.3 years, there were 208 deaths. A two-point increase in the Mediterranean diet score was associated with a 21% reduced risk of death, the findings showed. The top category (score six-nine) of adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with 37% lower risk of death compared to the bottom category (zero-three).

Mediterranean diet

The researchers deepened their investigation by looking at the role played by individual foods that make up the Mediterranean diet. "The major contributors to mortality risk reduction were a higher consumption of vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts, and monounsaturated fatty acids – olive oil," Bonaccio said. The findings were presented at the ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress 2016 in Rome.

The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat. Many people who switch to this style of eating say they'll never eat any other way. Here are some specific steps from the Mayo Clinic to help get you started:

Mediterranean diet

  • Eat your veggies and fruits — and switch to whole grains. An abundance and variety of plant foods should make up the majority of your meals. Strive for seven to 10 servings a day of veggies and fruits. Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, and eat more whole-grain rice and pasta products.
  • Go nuts. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a healthier dip or spread for bread.
  • Pass on the butter. Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine for cooking. Dip bread in flavoured olive oil or lightly spread it on whole-grain bread for a tasty alternative to butter.
  • Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and are also rich in health-promoting substances. Season your meals with herbs and spices rather than going heavy on the salt.
  • Go fish. Eat fish once or twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grilled fish tastes good and requires little cleanup. Avoid fried fish, unless it's sautéed in a small amount of canola oil.
  • Rein in the red meat. Substitute fish and poultry for red meat. When you do eat meat, make sure it's lean and keep the portions small (about the size of a deck of cards). Try to avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat meats.
  • Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher fat dairy products such as whole or 2% milk, cheese, and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yoghurt, and low-fat cheese.
  • Raise a glass to healthy eating. If it's OK with your doctor, have a glass of wine at dinner. But if you don't drink alcohol, you don't need to start. Drinking purple grape juice may be an alternative to wine.