“Every food a person might eat either fights or contributes to disease.” – Stephen L. Kopecky, MD, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic
Does it surprise you that most Americans would rather pop a pill than adjust their eating and exercise regimens?
While it’s true that medications like statins work—and are far easier to “swallow” (no pun intended) than major life overhauls—it’s a fact that the right kind of diet and exercise will maximize the benefits of any cholesterol-lowering drug, while providing a broad swath of protection against heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
The Mayo Clinic cardiologist quoted above endorses a Mediterranean diet, one that typifies the eating habits of people living in Greece and Italy. In those countries, it’s not uncommon to eat an average of nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as seafood each day. They enjoy healthy, heart-protective fats but treat processed foods as a rare indulgence. Besides the heart benefits, studies suggest this kind of diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s, arthritis, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome that’s a cluster of pre-diabetic risk factors.
Should you want to dip a toe (or more) into the Mediterranean this month, here are ways to tweak your eating regimen without complete mutiny:
- Shop the perimeter of your grocery store to buy produce such as strawberries, blueberries, red grapes, oranges, spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, eggplant, and corn. If you have it on hand, it’s less of a hassle to cook with it—and easier to get in your two-plus servings of vegetables and three-plus servings of fruits, each day.
- Try to eat seafood three times each week, making one (or more) a fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and trout.
- Tweak your scrambled eggs by using two egg whites for every one yolk.
- Skip the butter and even the margarine. Use olive oil to cook your food, drizzle your dish, and dip your bread. Canola oil is also a good choice for cooking.
- Taper your reliance on red or processed meats. There’s no need to swear them off; but make your primary protein source either fish, leaner cuts, or vegetable protein like lentils, black beans, and split peas.