Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Diet changes have been shown to help significantly – one diet that is particularly beneficial is the Mediterranean diet.
Previous studies have found that following a Mediterranean diet, which consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, and fish, reduces heart disease risk in adults.
Researchers say the diet which is rich in virgin olive oil can also be beneficial for people who are at risk for heart disease.
Packed with vitamins and nutrients, the diet is well-established for its positive effects on overall health.
As the name gives away, the diet combines the authentic lifestyles of people who live by the Mediterranean sea.
According to Heart UK, benefits of the Mediterranean diet include:
- It’s rich in monounsaturated fats which are heart healthy, such as olive oil and nuts
- It’s a good source of omega 3 fatty acids from seafood, especially oily fish which are good for your heart health too
- It’s rich in potassium, which comes from wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables and nuts
- It’s rich in fibre including soluble fibre from wholegrain cereals, vegetables, fruit, beans and peas
- rich in antioxidants including vitamins E and C, carotenoids and flavonoids
- It’s rich in B vitamins including folic acid.
Depending on the exact country, the diet varies slightly over the regions but includes similar principles.
The Mediterranean diet is generally packed with vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains and fish.
And its staple linked to good heart health is olive oil.
Overall, this healthy diet is low in meats and dairy intake.
Olive oil is the primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet, added Medical News Today.
The health site added: “Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat, which lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. Nuts and seeds also contain monounsaturated fat.
“Fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats help fight inflammation in the body.
“Omega-3 fatty acids also help decrease triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure.”
Another key factor in the diet is its restriction on saturated fat and processed foods.
Liver cells have LDL receptors on them.
When LDL cholesterol passes by in the blood, these receptors take the cholesterol out of the blood and into the liver to be broken down.
Research suggests that eating too much saturated fat stops the receptors from working so well, and cholesterol builds up in the blood.
Processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, and hot dogs, are high cholesterol foods that you should limit in your diet.
High intake of these foods is linked to increased rates of heart disease and certain cancers, such as colon cancer.