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Feb 26, 2013 8:04 PM by Angela Douglas - Q2 News

Study: Mediterranean diet prevents heart disease, stroke

BILLINGS - Health care professionals have been urging their patients to eat a colorful diet rich with whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats, for years. Now, new research shows that diet, which resembles the traditional Mediterranean diet, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

A Spanish test randomly assigned 7,447 participants to a low-fat diet or one of two variations of the Mediterranean diet: one focused on extra-virgin olive oil; participants consumed more than a quarter cup a day, and the other focused on nuts; participants ate more than an ounce of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts a day .

The study participants were within the ages of 55-80, with women representing more than half of the study.

"Many of them were in a high risk category for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes," explained RiverStone Health Diabetes Educator Kim Fisher.

The study proved that the Mediterranean diet reduced the patient's chances of developing diseases when compared to a low-fat diet.

"If we were to just replace some of our saturated fats, which are mostly in animal products like red meats and butter, with some of the healthier fats, which are in olive oil, canola oil, and many vegetable oils, we know that they come with a lower instance of heart disease," Fisher stated.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes several key components:

  • Getting plenty of exercise.
  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month.
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
  • Drinking red wine in moderation.

Fisher said the new study further emphasizes the importance of eating a well-balanced, healthy diet.

"Just paying attention to unprocessed foods, how they're being prepared, and the amounts that we're eating," Fisher reminded. "Those messages are really tried and true."

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