8 simple changes that can help you adopt a Mediterranean Diet

Filling your diet with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and protein may benefit your heart health in the long run, suggests new research.

If you want to do your heart a favour, discover your inner Greek or Italian. New research confirms what the Mediterraneans have long known — their diet is one of the healthiest in the world.

A recent British study found people who followed a mostly Mediterranean diet had a six to 16 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who didn’t eat these kinds of foods. The researchers believe switching to the Mediterranean diet could save lives.

Dr Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, estimated that one in 25 of all new cardiovascular disease cases, or one in eight cardiovascular deaths in the UK-based study, could potentially be avoided if this population increased their adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

An abundance of fruits and vegetables

Five green vegetables to add to your grocery basket now.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and olive oil. It also includes moderate amounts of lean red meat, chicken and fish as well as dairy.

Tania Ferraretto, a dietitian with the Dietitians Association of Australia, says the high component of fruits and vegetables is a definite health benefit.

“Australians generally don’t eat enough and we need to eat a variety of whatever fruits and vegetables are in season because they have higher nutritional value,” she says.

“The fats in the diet are monounsaturated or healthy fats that mostly come from olives and olive oil and any carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice, are usually coupled with vegetables, salad and lean meat or fish and are eaten in moderate portions.

“There aren’t a lot of processed and sweet foods, and in the traditional Mediterranean homes food is something to be enjoyed and shared. I think in Australia food has become clinical and measured, there are lots of rules and people worry about what they should and shouldn’t be eating. The Mediterranean diet is about eating a varied and balanced diet and enjoying food.”

Simple ways to adopt a Mediterranean diet

  • Eat two to three serves of fruit a day. Add fruit to yoghurt or cereal for breakfast and have a piece for morning or afternoon snack.
  • Use olive oil for cooking, drizzling on salads and in dressings.
  • At every meal, ensure half your plate is filled with salad or cooked vegetables.
  • Have small serves of rice and pasta — about a quarter of your plate should be carbohydrates.
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein such as fish, chicken or meat.
  • Have two fish meals a week, which can be as simple as having a can of tuna.
  • Avoid deep fried and fatty foods.
  • Add flavour with fresh herbs, lemon juice and olive oil.

Written by Sarah Marinos