Why is the Mediterranean diet good for your heart?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  September 7, 2017

It’s no secret that the Mediterranean Diet is believed to boost health in many ways. 

Lauded for its emphasis on plant-based foods, healthy oils, and whole grains, this popular eating plan provides science-backed health benefits.

These benefits range from better brain health to lowered risk of breast cancer in women. But for many older Americans, there’s one benefit that trumps them all.

Meals prepared in the Mediterranean style may reduce the risk of death for heart patients.

That’s significant because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. This is true for both men and women.

But what is it about food prepared in the Mediterranean tradition that supposedly delivers heart-healthy benefits? After all, there are plenty of diets that tell us to stick mostly to plant-based foods and whole grains.

Why the Mediterranean Diet is Good for Your Heart

A few subtle distinctions, according to researchers, are difference between the Mediterranean Diet and similar-sounding diets.

For example, when it comes to helping the ticker stay healthy, higher consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids seems to do the trick. Olive oil and nuts, two important components of the Mediterranean diet, both contain monounsaturated fat. Similar-sounding nutrition plans don’t always incorporate nuts and olive oil.

Here are some of the other benefits you can reap by following the culinary traditions of countries that dot the Mediterranean Sea.

1. Health Benefits Even if You Have Cardiovascular Disease

In one fascinating study, researchers found that for patients with cardiovascular problems, eating Mediterranean-style was associated with significant reduction in the risk of death. That’s further good news about this heart-healthy diet because it means the benefits aren’t just preventative.

People who already have heart problems may be able to improve their heart health.

What this is telling us is that heart patients may be able to alter the trajectory of their condition simply by eating different foods.

How does that work?

The secret, according to scientists, lies in those healthy oils—precisely what distinguishes the Mediterranean diet from similar-sounding eating plans.

2. Healthy Fats Can Have Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Foods that make up the Mediterranean diet, including olive oil, oily fish, and nuts, contain powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients. They’re so powerful, in fact, that researchers believe them to be more effective than statins in reducing death rates in cardiovascular patients.

3. Fewer Side Effects than Statins

Statins are commonly-prescribed drugs that lower cholesterol. As is true of many medications, statins do come with side effects. Another benefit of the Mediterranean diet is that side effects are few, if any. Most doctors and healthcare professionals prefer a diet-driven approach to health over a drug-based treatment when possible.

4. The Use of Herbs and Spices is in Line With MyPlate Guidelines

One striking aspect of foods prepared this way is the use of spices. From oregano and basil to fennel and rosemary, food is prepared with a wonderful variety of flavors. This makes meals taste delicious. The bonus is you’ll also be following the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations for healthy senior eating!

5. Mediterranean-Style Cooking is Fun and Easy

For seniors who don’t want to spend a lot of time shopping or cooking, the Mediterranean diet offers a refreshingly simple cooking style. Recipes call for basic ingredients that are often simple and easy to remember.

Want to try eating Mediterranean style?

Sunrise® can help you get started! Download our cookbook and see for yourself how easy it can be to cook delicious, heart-healthy meals.