Death rates from heart disease and cancer have been rising dramatically over the last few decades. Like most developed countries, Cardio Vascular Diseases (CDD) are fast catching up in the UAE as well. More than 30% deaths in the UAE are due to CDD and it is concerning that more young adults in the UAE are vulnerable to heart disease. It has been proven time and again that hectic lifestyles and unhealthy diets with too many saturated fats and unwanted cholesterol are to be blamed for the rise in heart diseases. On the contrary, people living in the Mediterranean areas seemed to have healthier hearts and lived for longer years, despite eating a fat rich diet!
Most experts seem to recommend Mediterranean diet for a healthy heart. What is interesting to note, is that people on typical Mediterranean diet get 40% of their calories from fats, yet they have healthier hearts. That’s because almost all the fats in a healthy Mediterranean diet comes from fish, olive oil and nuts. These substances contain unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids, which reduce the bad cholesterol levels and increase the good cholesterol that your body needs. Since traditional Mediterranean food is simple, fresh and perfectly balanced with all the essential nutrients, it definitely tops the list of heart healthy diets.
Mediterranean people rely less on red meat unlike North Europeans and Americans who consume more meat. Red meat is a source of saturated fats, which are unhealthy for the heart. The Mediterranean’s instead eat more fish, especially the oily one’s like Salmon and Mackerel. Fish contains omega–3 fatty acids, which not only lower the blood cholesterol but also nourish our body cells with essential fats . Remember, not all fats are bad and our bodies need fats as much as they need other nutrients. The natural fatty acids in fish are exactly the type of fats our cells to need to remain healthy and function appropriately. Fish oils are also rich in Vitamins like A,E, D and K that are also crucial for heart health.
Olive oil is predominantly used in cooking and salad dressing. While cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil is the best form of olive oil to consume, it is usually recommended for low heat cooking, dipping and dressing. For high heat cooking, however, light Olive oil can be safely used. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats. These increase the HDL and lower the LDL levels, keeping your arteries clean and clear. Olive oil is also a rich source of antioxidants, including Vitamin E that can prevent premature ageing and infertility in young women. Studies also suggest that olive oil can provide protection against cancer as well.
High fibre foods
Mediterranean diet has abundant amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Pasta and breads made of whole grains add complex carbohydrates that keeps blood sugar and body weight under control. Most Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes contain a vast array of colorful fruits and vegetables which supply vitamins and fibre. Walnuts, Pine nuts and Almonds are often used and they not only add taste and texture to the food, but also supply great amounts of protein and heart healthy fats.
Mediterranean diet overall provides sufficient amounts of fiber, vitamins, phytochemicals and nutrients that protect the body against cancer, blood pressure, bile stones, heart attack and stroke. So if you want to look good, have a healthy heart and live for long, follow a diet that’s close to the Mediterranean eating habits. But before you go all out, always remember the golden rule: over eating any kind of food is not good for your weight. Do not forget that Mediterranean diet, although heart friendly, is rich in fats and all fats can add to your weight. So eat everything in moderation and don’t forget to stay active. Following a healthy lifestyle, being active, not smoking, eating in moderation and being close to nature will keep you fit and healthy for life.