7 Ways to Take Your Diet from So-So to Super Healthy

Mediterranean Diet Image

Our nutrition expert—Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D.—is a diabetes educator and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

The health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet—which is high in fresh produce, fatty fish, olive oil and nuts, and low in processed foods, saturated fats and red meat—have been touted for several years. Studies have shown the favorable effects of the diet on obesity, blood pressure and blood sugar.

Now, new research in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that eating the foods featured in this plan can reduce the risk of diabetes. Researchers followed more than 3,500 older adults without diabetes and at high risk for cardiovascular disease over the course of four years. Participants were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) or mixed nuts, or to a more traditional low-fat diet.

Those on the Mediterranean diet were 18 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those on the low-fat diet. Want to try it? Here's how to get the most from eating Mediterranean-style:

  1. Change your oil—Substitute extra-virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil or canola oil for other cooking fats and oils. These oils contain a high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats, such as those found in butter and cheese.
  2. Go for nuts—Try pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and pecans, which contain protein and healthy fats. Choose unsalted and dry roasted or raw nuts, and natural varieties of peanut butter that contain no hydrogenated fats. Since nuts are high in calories, limit your intake to one ounce or a small handful per day.
  3. Eat fatty fish—Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are all rich in linoleic acid, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid that lowers triglycerides, moderates blood pressure, and may reduce the risk of sudden heart attacks. Shoot for two 4-ounce servings per week, and prepare fish simply by grilling, baking or broiling rather than breading and frying.
  4. Serve up whole grains—Bulgur, barley, brown rice and whole-grain breads contain fiber, which provides a feeling of fullness and may help you reduce the number of calories you take in. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Aim to eat five to seven half-cup servings of grains or slices of whole-grain bread daily.
  5. Reduce sodium intake—Omit salt at the table and when cooking; choose no-salt-added canned foods and eat fewer cured foods.
  6. Choose low-fat dairy products—Low-fat dairy foods contain calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin D. A study published by the American Heart Association found that people who consumed low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who ate full-fat versions.
  7. Drink wine in moderation—Red wine in particular has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you're a woman, or a man over age 65, limit it to one 5-ounce glass a day. Men under 65 can have two glasses. If you don't drink at all, don't start, since alcohol has many negative effects on health as well.

From our sister publication Diabetes Focus Spring 2014

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 06 Feb 2014

Last Modified: 13 Feb 2014