Research has found that following a Mediterranean diet can reduce the chance of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, along with fish or poultry twice a week, and limited red meat and butter.

The focus of the Mediterranean diet is not to cut fat completely as other diet plans do, but to choose healthier types of fats. The main source of fat on this plan is olive oil, which can help reduce (LDL) cholesterol levels.

Follow these guidelines for the Mediterranean Diet:

  • Replace butter, margarine and other hydrogenated oils with healthy oils such as olive oil, grape seed oil, canola, or walnut oil. Plant based oils are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids.
  • The protein sources on the Mediterranean diet include fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and legumes. Limit your intake of red meat to just a couple times a month, rather than as a staple of your diet. This will help lower your saturated fat intake. The Mediterranean diet recommends eating fish at least twice a week. Fish such as salmon, tuna, or sardines are high in omega-3s. The diet recommends baked or grilled fish, not fried.
  • Most of your food intake should consist of vegetables. Residents of Greece on average, eat six or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The average American only incorporates 3 servings of fruits and vegetables into their diet per day. Fruits and vegetables are important for protection against cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Incorporate whole grains into your diet, this means non refined whole grain products; where the first ingredient listed on the label is whole grain. Some recommendations are quinoa, whole grain pasta and bread, oatmeal, and brown rice.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds, or low-fat dairy instead of chips or cookies. These high protein snacks will keep you feeling full longer, and include less sugar and trans and saturated fats.
  • Set aside time to savor food. The Mediterranean cultures allow time for family and meals. They eat around a dinner table instead of grabbing something on the go or eating in front of the TV. When you eat at a table you’re more likely to eat slowly which will allow you to feel full without overeating.

These are some steps to follow a Mediterranean diet for a healthier lifestyle. For more information on the Mediterranean diet, visit the Mayo Clinic.