Advising patients to eat a Mediterranean diet is like providing a food prescription, based on science.
By Dr. Shalini Bobra
The number one question patients ask me is “What should I eat?” It’s a big topic during many initial consults. And the advice that I give, based on a lot of recent research, is that they should follow a Mediterranean diet. It’s something concrete patients can do on a day to day basis. While there are a lot of health issues we can’t control, like our genetics or getting older, we can control what we eat.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil and flavorful herbs and spices. The diet also calls for eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week, eating poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation and indulging in sweets and red meat on special occasions. And for those who don’t have alcohol misuse disorder, drinking red wine in moderation is fine.
Following a Mediterranean diet can help you reduce inflammation, and therefore your risk of cardiovascular disease. It can help lower your “bad” (HDL) cholesterol. Other studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for weight loss and helps ward off chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes. It can help keep blood pressure at proper levels, and it can improve your blood sugar level. The Mediterranean diet also encourages cooking with spices and natural herbs instead of salt, which can exacerbate high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The Mediterranean diet is also easy to stick to because you don’t feel like you’re denying yourself the things that you like to eat. It includes a wide variety of foods, so it is never boring. And it even allows a moderate amount of fat.
And if you are not completely ready to take the Mediterranean plunge all at once, you can start by simply adding increased servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet to improve your health.
Shalini Bobra, MD, is a cardiologist with White Plains Hospital Medical and Wellness in Armonk and the Montefiore Einstein Center for Heart and Vascular Care.