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Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating foods like fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber grains and breads, and olive oils. Meat, cheese, and sweets are very limited. These recommended foods are rich with monounsaturated fats, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Although this diet is similar to the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association general dietary guidelines, it is not exactly the same. On the Mediterranean diet, an average of 35% of calories can come from fat, mainly from unsaturated oils, such as fish oils, olive oil, and certain nut or seed oils (such as canola, soybean, or flaxseed oil). These types of oils may have a protective effect on the heart.

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Initial studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet may reduce the rate of a second heart attack and death in people who adopt the diet following a heart attack.1 Further research is needed, but current studies reinforce the importance of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and high-fiber breads and whole grains. Furthermore, incorporating a moderate amount of fats from nuts, seeds, and foods high in linolenic acid (such as walnuts, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and canola oil) may also help prevent heart disease.2

Citations

  1. De Lorgeril MD, et al. (1999). Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: Final report of the Lyon diet heart study. Circulation, 99(6): 779-785.

  2. Kris-Etherton P, et al. (2001). Lyon diet heart study: Benefits of a Mediterranean-style, National Cholesterol Education Program/American Heart Association Step I dietary pattern on cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 103(13): 1823-1825.

Author Robin Parks, MS
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition
Last Updated May 29, 2008

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 29, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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