Because this is still American Heart Month, instead of feeling guilty for less desirable choices, consider adopting lifestyle changes to improve your health. Pounds come off with portion control, but more importantly, your heart will thrive.
There are endless exercise and diet plans - some complicated, others time-intensive or expensive. One easy-to-follow plan backed by numerous studies is the modified Mediterranean style of eating.
The Mediterranean diet is evidence-based. We know it lowers LDL cholesterol to reduce heart disease risk and control blood sugar, which impacts Type 2 diabetes. Other studies show decreased Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, reduced risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and colon cancer, and improved rheumatoid arthritis.
Modified Mediterranean diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Primary animal protein recommendations are fish and poultry with olive oil as the main fat source. Couple it with regular physical exercise and you'll see improvement.
What a colorful plate. Half is filled with vegetables - low in fat, minimal calories, high in fiber and loaded with healthy nutrients. The other half is whole grains and protein. What it contains:
- At least a half cup daily of dark green vegetables.
- Once daily for garlic, onions and leeks.
- 1 tablespoon daily of green herbs (basil, cilantro and sage).
- 1 serving a day of red vegetables, such as tomatoes and tomato sauce.
- 1 serving a day of yellow or orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potato or pumpkin.
- At least a half cup daily of other vegetables.
- At least a half cup daily of vitamin C fruits (oranges, pineapple, mangoes, berries).
- At least a half cup daily of other fruits.
- Eight to 10 teaspoons of monounsaturated fat (olive or nut oils or avocado).
A few tips:
Try preparing vegetables in a new way and experiment with recipes. Toss vegetables in olive oil and roast in an oven for a different flavor.
Fresh, frozen or dried fruits provide good nutrients. They're high in fiber, low in calories and filled with antioxidants. Have fresh or dried fruit for snacks in place of typical processed snack foods.
Go for some whole grains - 100 percent whole grain pasta, rice, oatmeal or bread. For gluten-free choices try amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and wild rice.
Monounsaturated fat is the signature of the Mediterranean diet. The kind of fat matters. Nuts are high in fat and should be limited to five to 10 per day. The heart healthy omega-3 fat is found in cold-water fish such as salmon. Avoid trans fat (commercial products) and decrease saturated fat (whole dairy products and meat).
Beans and legumes are low-fat protein sources and a good source of fiber. When using canned beans as a time saver, you can rinse with water to remove excess salt. Beans can be added to soups, sprinkled on salads and stirred into pasta dishes.
Herbs and spices are the newest addition to the Mediterranean diet.
Drink wine (or substitute purple grape juice). Research has found that 4 ounces daily for women and 8 for men may reduce disease risk because it contains anti-inflammatory substances. Wine is not recommended for pregnant women.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.