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Mediterranean Diet: heart healthy eating

Published On: Mar 04 2013 05:29:45 AM CST
Updated On: Mar 04 2013 05:31:21 AM CST

Mediterranean Diet

It's a great place to vacation, but doctors say it's also a smart way to eat.

A groundbreaking new study says the so-called "Mediterranean Diet" can cut your risk of heart attack and stroke by a whopping 30 percent. The study was published this week on the New England Journal of Medicine website.

At Yianni's Taverna in Bethlehem, Mediterranean isn't just a diet. It's a way of life.

"Mediterranean food pretty much consists of everything fresh," said executive chef Elan Golden Alexis.

"The food is delicious," said diner Trish Colasurdo. "It smells delicious."

But it's not just the taste that attracts diners. It's also the health benefits.

"Yes, I think it is a lot healthier for you," said Alexis.

To find out why, we went shopping with St. Luke's dietitian Roba Bozakis.

"One of the key components of the Mediterranean Diet is consuming fish and seafood," she said.

Fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids.

"Which have been shown to help reduce inflammation throughout the body," said Bozakis.

So do nuts, another Mediterranean staple. Olive oil, along with fresh herbs and spices, is substituted for butter and salt. Bozakis said, go with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The less processed it is, the better it is for you.

"Olive oil has a fat called mono-unsaturated fat, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol, which is a bad cholesterol," said Bozakis.

A glass of wine a day is also recommended, but Bozakis suggests no more than five ounces a day for women or ten ounces for men.

"Too, too much of anything is never a good thing," she said. "Grape juice can work just as well."

So why don't more Americans eat this way?

"I think people are a little intimidated by the word 'Mediterranean,'" said Alexis. "But in all honesty, it's pretty much what you put in, is what you get. If you put quality, you get quality."

Fans of the Mediterranean diet suggest starting out small.

"I wouldn't go full-out, clean out your cupboards and just go 'full Mediterranean,' but just start adding things to your diet," said Colasurdo's husband, Tony.

Bozakis said it's easy to go Mediterranean with salads.

"Olive oil is great to use for mixing salads with a little bit of vinegar and fresh herbs and spices, rather than some of the processed, already-prepared salad dressings," she said.

When it comes to eating, less could mean more -- protection for your heart.

Read the full study.