These foods are good for your heart and your waistline

These foods are good for your heart and your waistline

The Mediterranean diet is often said to be the golden key to living a longer, healthier life. And for good reason. The long-term health benefits of following this lifestyle are well-researched, from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to reducing risk for diabetes, cancer, depression and dementia.

But what isn’t as well known is if the Mediterranean Diet can positively affect your health over a shorter term, like helping you to lose weight.

To help shed light on this question, scientists conducted a research review. They evaluated the results of five published clinical trials that studied the effect of the Mediterranean diet on people trying to lose weight.

The studies included nearly 1,000 participants who were overweight or obese. They followed either the Mediterranean diet, American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet, or a low-fat or low-carb diet for at least 12 months.

The researchers found those on the Mediterranean diet lost 9 to 22 pounds after a year, while those on the low-fat diet lost just 6 to 11 pounds. Those on the ADA diet or low-carb diet experienced similar weight loss as the Mediterranean diet. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet was similar to the other three diets in improving cardiovascular risk factors like blood pressure and lipid levels.

“What’s interesting about these findings and the Mediterranean diet is that it dispels the myth that one must eat a low-fat diet to be healthy,” says Dr. Zachary Singer, who specializes in family medicine at Aurora Health Center in Mequon, WI. “What matters is choosing the right types of fat.”

In the Mediterranean diet, most of the dietary fat is healthy fats, primarily from olive oil, fish and nuts. The diet is also rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and lighter on dairy with limits on meat, sugary items and processed foods. Enjoying meals with family and friends is also important, as is doing physical activities you enjoy.

“The Mediterranean diet is more than just a diet – it’s a lifestyle,” Dr. Singer says. “And given the large body of research evidence that it can help lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious conditions, it may be an especially good option to consider for losing weight, too. Being within your ideal weight range can improve your heart health and help you avoid or manage diabetes and other health issues.”

Wondering what your ideal weight range is – and how the number may be affecting your life and future? Take this free healthy weight quiz.

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About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.