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For Better Health, Go Mediterranean!

Reap the benefits of this popular diet
For Better Health, Go Mediterranean!: Main Image
In addition to weight loss, this diet reduces heart disease risk

You don’t have to travel to Greece to reap the health-boosting rewards of the Mediterranean diet, an eating plan that focuses on fish, heart-healthy fats, veggies, whole grains, and—cheers!—wine. Here’s how you can incorporate the flavor-filled foods of the Mediterranean eating style into your diet:

Take a fishing expedition

“Fish is high in the heart-smart omega-3 fats,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN, a media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and a dietitian at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Wellness Institute in Chicago. "The goal is to eat about 12 ounces (340 g) of a variety of fish each week.” Blatner’s tips:

  • Gradually increase the fish in your diet by ordering grilled, baked, or broiled fish the next time you’re out to lunch or dinner.

Go nuts!

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the monounsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, and avocado. “These fats are extremely healthy, but also high in calories,” warns Blatner. “Use these foods more often as condiments rather than snacking on them.” For example:

  • Sprinkle walnuts or sunflower seeds on your morning cereal.
  • Cook with and drizzle olive oil on salads (but use prudently).
  • Use avocados as a sandwich spread instead of mayo to save calories and add fiber.

Wine and dine

Both red and white wines contain disease-fighting chemicals. So enjoy vino with your fish dinner—just remember to do so in moderation: 5 ounces (148 ml) a day or less for women; 10 ounces (286 ml) a day or less for men.

Veg out

“The first step to eating more vegetables is buying more vegetables and keeping them ready to use and visible,” advises Blatner. Her best tip: purchase already cut and cleaned broccoli, peppers, green beans, cauliflower, green leafy veggies such as spinach or collard greens, and so forth—or buy whole vegetables and chop them all up at one time so they are ready to go when you want them. Keep your veggies at eye level in the fridge so you’ll remember to use them. (Use the crisper for things like water bottles and yogurt.)

In addition to weight loss, researchers have discovered that this type of diet improves your total cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels—thereby reducing your heart disease risk. New studies have also shown that a Mediterranean diet can even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Nancy Gottesman, a health and nutrition writer in Santa Monica, California, munched on sunflower seeds and olives as she wrote this story.