Harvard Heart Letter

Mediterranean-type diet can fix multiple problems

If you need to fix a bunch of unhealthy trends — high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL, and excess belly fat — following a Mediterranean-type diet could be a single solution to them all. Greek and Italian researchers combined the results of 50 studies that included more than half a million men and women. Adopting and sticking with a Mediterranean-type diet improved each of those measures (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, March 15, 2011).

Note that we say "Mediterranean-type diet." That's because the 50 studies didn't look at a single, rigid diet, but rather an eating pattern that shares these general characteristics: It's low in saturated fat and high in fiber. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are eaten daily and make up the lion's share of food items. Fat, much of it from olive oil, may account for up to 40% of daily calories. Small portions of cheese or yogurt are usually eaten each day, along with a serving of fish, poultry, or eggs. Red meat makes an appearance now and then. Small amounts of red wine are typically taken with meals.

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