Along with the USDA’s food guide pyramid’s demonizing of all things fat, for many years the AHA focused on steering the public towards a low fat diet.
This idea seemed to run hand in hand with the idea that cholesterol in foods and in our bloodstream was the major contributor to heart disease. However, even with the research we had at the time, you really had to squint and look at it cock-eyed to decide that low cholesterol and low fat diets were THE answer to heart disease.
In hindsight, we can see how miserably we have failed at avoiding heart disease with this approach. And we might as well throw walking around the block in the same category (instead of a more intense, short-burst aerobic approach).
The Mediterranean Diet, on the other hand, has never had a focus on fat. Rather, it had a focus on actually making monounsaturated and omega-3 fats as part of the diet. While this was not the only aspect of the diet, it was in direct contrast with the AHA’s and the USDA pyramids’ message of low fat.
This particular article reviews the overall idea that diet plays a substantial role in heart disease, with a special focus on the power of the Mediterranean diet. The beauty of the Mediterranean diet is that it is not a “developed” diet, but rather the indigenous diet of a population that was known to have a very low risk of heart disease. Aspects of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Lowered animal protein intake, mostly from fish.
- Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables.
- Grain intake is whole grain, not processed junk.
- Focus on the use of olive oil and other monounsaturated fats like nuts and seeds.
There is not a single aspect of the Mediterranean diet that gives it its power. Rather, it is the combination of food compounds that gives it so much cardioprotection. As an example, the higher fat intake of the diet actually helps in the absorption of lycopene present in the tomatoes. This is a good thing because lycopene has a potent ability to protect the heart.
This benefit on the heart of this dietary approach alone speaks to the power of the diet. Adding in exercise (most notably short-burst aerobic), stress management and avoidance of environmental chemicals known to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease will lower your risk down to almost nothing.