Mediterranean diet could help save money

Experts have said that the abundance of fish oil in the Mediterranean diet can have significant benefits for weight management and other health matters. Now findings newly released by the Miriam Hospital and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank show that eating lots of fruits, vegetables and fish as part of a Mediterranean diet could also help your monthly grocery bill slim down.

A statement from the cohort of researchers explains that it’s often assumed that eating healthy is more expensive than consuming lots of fast foods and snacks. However, when less of a food budget is dedicated to purchasing potentially high-calorie meats with low nutritional benefits, and instead spent on more plants, money can be saved.

Lead study author and research dietitian at the Miriam Hospital Mary Flynn, Ph.D., got the idea to conduct this research from speaking with participants in prior studies on chronic disease.

“I had a number of people – mainly women from my breast cancer weight loss study – say how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was,”  she announced. “So I approached the food bank about designing a study using food pantry items for the recipes.”

During the course of this six-month study – wherein grocery recipes were collected from 63 participants, Flynn said that on average, spending more money on fruits and vegetables and less on meat brought about 50 percent in weekly savings on food. Subjects were typically low-income and recruited through a food bank, and their reliance on their food bank’s services also dropped by approximately 15 percent.

Some tips for applying the Mediterranean diet to your life
If it sounds difficult or time consuming to change up your habits to fit Mediterranean-style eating – and enjoying the possible benefits to cardiovascular health – consider some of the advice provided by The Patriot News, based in Pennsylvania.

Shehab Saba – a Mediterranean-diet advocate and pita store owner – told the news source that an easy way to save money on olive oil is to buy it in larger quantities. Amanda Dolan from Capital BlueCross also told the source that growing your own vegetables can save money and produce foods with fewer additives than are found in some supermarkets. While some experts encourage people to eat organics, Dolan and other experts told The Patriot News that the pricier products aren’t necessary for a productive Mediterranean diet.

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The Mediterranean Diet Will Benefit Your Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
The Mediterranean Diet Will Benefit Your Health

What does this mean for us? The jury’s still out. However, one thing seems clear – the “Mediterranean Diet”, can certainly enhance health and well-being and may be protective of the heart, arteries, brains, muscles and numerous other tissues. The Mediterranean dietary lifestyle is health-promoting and life-enhancing.

The Mediterranean Diet – Can you do it?

There is no reason why we all can’t incorporate more of the health-promoting dietary practices as advocated by the “Mediterranean Diet” into our daily lives. This requires increased emphasis on fresh foods and may require increased efforts in food preparation, which is not that appealing or convenient. When eating out, it requires thinking about making healthier choices.

All of these apparent obstacles can be overcome if you are serious about your health and simply make up your mind to live a healthier lifestyle. Once you decide to improve your health by adopting healthful dietary practices, you need to make a plan. Start by taking small steps towards eating better by making gradual changes that are in line with the recommendations provided here. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. That may lead to frustration if you’re not able to follow through completely. Making incremental changes over a period of time leads to better compliance. If you fall off the wagon occasionally, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get back on and move forward. Healthy eating leads to healthy bodies.

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The Mediterranean Diet – Is It The Wine?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
The Mediterranean Diet – Is It The Wine?

Another vital component of the Mediterranean dietary lifestyle is the enjoyment of one or two glasses of wine in moderation, usually red, every day (or nearly so). Can red wine be another link between the Mediterranean dietary lifestyle and good health?

Many scientists have examined this question during the last decade. They have found that the regular daily consumption of one or two glasses of red wine, once a day during or just after a meal, can:

  • reduce the risk of having a heart attack by about 50%.
  • reduce the likelihood of developing congestive heart failure by about 50%
  • cut the chances of dying from heart disease or cancer by up to 50%.

More recently, a group of European investigators have published in the scientific journal, Physiological Research, the results of a formal analysis of the tremendous volume of scientific research linking red wine to cardiovascular health.11 They concluded that red wine:

  • reduces the ability of arterial plaques to form or enlarge
  • reduces the ability of arterial plaques to cause narrowing of the arteries
  • increases the health of heart muscle
  • increases resistance to developing high blood pressure

These conclusions are consistent with the results obtained by this group in their own research, as published in the journal Physiological Research.12

Finally, a group of Canadian cardiologists have “said it all” in their summary assessment published recently in the American Journal of Physiology.13 These experts have concluded that the consumption of one or two glasses of red wine, once a day during or just after a meal, can markedly reduce your chances of ever suffering from:

  • heart attack
  • angina
  • congestive heart failure
  • stroke
  • coronary artery blockages
  • atherosclerotic plaques
  • vascular thrombosis
  • peripheral arterial disease
  • intermittent claudication
  • hypertension

How can Red Wine be so beneficial?

Scientists know that when you drink a glass of red wine, for the next day or so you have decreased:

  • susceptibility of the cholesterol-laden lipoprotein particles in your blood to become oxidized.
  • susceptibility of the monocyte cells in your blood to become converted into plaque-forming cells.
  • release of monocyte-attracting chemicals by the cells lining the inner walls of your blood vessels.
  • migration of blood monocytes to the linings of the inner walls of your blood vessels.
  • ability of blood monocytes to attach to the linings of the inner walls of your blood vessels.
  • conversion of blood monocytes into cholesterol-laden foam cells within the inner walls of your blood vessels.

and increased:

  • resistance to stimuli that cause uncontrolled proliferation of the cells that line your blood vessels (which results in less narrowing of those vessels).
  • resistance to stimuli that cause uncontrolled proliferation of the smooth muscle cells that wrap around your blood vessels and control their diameter (which results in less narrowing and stiffness of blood vessels – major causes of high blood pressure).

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The Mediterranean Diet Will Benefit Your Health

References:
11. Pechanova O, Rezzani R, Babal P, Bernatova I, Andriantsitohaina R. Beneficial effects of provinols: Cardiovascular system and kidney. Physiol Res 2006;55(Suppl. 1):S17-S30.
12. Puzserova A, Csizmadiova Z, Andriantsitohaina R, Bernatova I. Vascular effects of red wine polyphenols in chronic stress-exposed Wistar-Kyoto rats. Physiol Res 2006;55(Suppl. 1):S39-S47.
13. Szmitko PE, Verma S. Antiatherogenic potential of red wine: Clinician update. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 2005;288:H2023-H2030.

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The Mediterranean Diet – Is It The Oil?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
The Mediterranean Diet – Is It The Oil?

A mainstay of the Mediterranean dietary lifestyle is the copious use and consumption of high-quality extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil. Is this important? The results of a recently-published randomized controlled clinical trial has shown that the high phytonutrient content of extra virgin olive oil is “heart healthy,” producing increased serum HDL-cholesterol concentrations and decreased serum triglyceride, LDL-cholesterol and oxidized LDL cholesterol concentrations.8 In addition, a laboratory study has shown that two of the polyphenol phytonutrients in olive oil, hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein, impair the ability of damaged blood vessel lining cells to trick white blood cells into helping them form an arterial plaque.9

These findings help explain the observation that the routine, life-long consumption of several tablespoons of high-quality olive oil daily (as salad dressing, cooking oil, salsa or olives) can reduce the chances of ever having a heart attack by 75% or more.10

Of course, the health benefits of olive oil extend far beyond the heart and cardiovascular system. For example a recently published review article demonstrated that breast cancer and colon cancer in particular are less likely to occur in adults who habitually practice a Mediterranean dietary lifestyle.2 These reviewers explained the mechanisms through which oleic acid, the major monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) in olive oil, suppressed several of the very first biochemical events that convert a normal breast or colon cell into a cancerous cell – a mechanism that could help oncologists understand better the value of olive oil both to their patients and as a “cancer preventive” option for the general population.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
The Mediterranean Diet – Is It The Wine?

References:
2. Colomer R, Menendez JA. Mediterranean diet, olive oil and cancer. Clin Transl Oncol 2006;8:15-21.
8. Covas MI, Nyyssonen K, Poulsen HE, Kaikkonen J, Zunft HJ, Kiesewetter H, Gaddi A, de la Torre R, Mursu J, Baumler H, Nascetti S, Salonen JT, Fito M, Virtanen J, Marrugat J, EUROLIVE Study Group. The effect of polyphenols in olive oil on heart disease risk factors: A randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 2006;145:333-341.
9. Carluccio MA, Siculella L, Ancora MA, Massaro M, Scoditti E, Storelli C, Visioli F, Distante A, De Caterina R. Olive oil and red wine antioxidant polyphenols inhibit endothelial activation: Antiatherogenic properties of Mediterranean diet phytochemicals. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2003;23:622-629.
10. Fernandez-Jarne E, Martinez-Losa E, Prado-Santamaria M, Brugarolas-Brufau C, Serrano-Martinez M, Martinez-Gonzalez MA. Risk of first non-fatal myocardial infarction negatively associated with olive oil consumption: A case-control study in Spain. Intern J Epidemiol 2002;31:474-480.

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The Mediterranean Diet and Health Benefits – What Does the Data Say?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
The Mediterranean Diet and Health Benefits – What Does the Data Say?

The results of a large number of studies all point in the same direction – the eating practices of individuals on the “Mediterranean Diet” keep people healthier.

The results of an analysis that combined the findings of many studies in an attempt to find the patterns that have emerged was published recently in Nutrition Reviews.1 The paper considered all of the possible health benefits that could be obtained from this lifestyle. These researchers concluded that the “Mediterranean Diet” does indeed keep people healthier. People who lived this lifestyle their entire lives as well as people who adopted it during participation in a research study enjoyed lower serum total and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) concentrations, lower plasma triglycerides, higher serum high-density-cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) concentrations, greater total plasma antioxidant capacity, more responsive and compliant blood vessels, greater insulin sensitivity and tighter blood glucose control, less cardiovascular disease, fewer heart attacks, fewer and milder joint problems, a tendency to lower body fatness and fewer cancers.

These conclusions repeat those that were reached previously by other experts.4 Those earlier scientists concluded that a shift to the traditional healthy Mediterranean diet by people living in highly developed Western countries could reduce by 10% to 25% the occurrence of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, pancreas and endometrium.

Another investigator has published the results of a more detailed examination of the specifics of the Mediterranean dietary lifestyle in the scientific journal, Public Health Nutrition, in an article titled, “Mediterranean Diet and Cancer.”5 This public health expert concluded that individuals who regularly consume at least 5 servings of fruits, at least 5 servings of vegetables, at least 1 serving of fish, at least one serving of whole grains and at least two tablespoons of olive oil (high in monounsaturated fats) every day, while eating red meat no more often than once every other day, would cut in half their chances of ever developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney, urinary bladder or prostate (if male) or breast, endometrium or ovary (if female).

The results of a recently-completed “gold standard” randomized controlled clinical trial, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are consistent with all of the previous conclusions and predictions concerning the health benefits of this lifestyle. In this study, two versions of the Mediterranean dietary lifestyle, differing in major fat source, were compared to a standard low-fat diet.6 Regardless of whether the additional dietary fat was in the form of olive oil or nuts, both versions of the Mediterranean dietary lifestyle produced much tighter control of blood glucose concentrations, promoted normalization of blood pressure, lowered serum LDL-cholesterol concentrations and reduced signs of systemic inflammation.

Beneficial effects on body weight probably contribute to these positive outcomes. As shown in the results of a study of over 3,000 men and women living in northeastern Spain, the closer an individual adheres to this lifestyle, the less likely he or she is to become overweight.7

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
The Mediterranean Diet – Is It The Oil?

References:
1. Serra-Majem L, Roman B, Estruch R. Scientific evidence of interventions using the Mediterranean diet: A systematic review. Nutr Rev 2006;64:S27-S47.
2. Colomer R, Menendez JA. Mediterranean diet, olive oil and cancer. Clin Transl Oncol 2006;8:15-21.
3. Simopoulos AP. The Mediterranean diets: What is so special about the diet of Greece? The scientific evidence. J Nutr 2001;131:3065S-3073S.
4. Trichopoulou A, Lagiou P, Kuper H, Trichopoulos D. Cancer and Mediterranean dietary traditions. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2000;9:869-873.
5. La Vecchia C. Mediterranean diet and cancer. Public Health Nutr 2004;7:965-968.
6. Estruch R, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Corella D, Salas-Salvado J, Ruiz- Gutierrez V, Covas MI, Fiol M, Gomez-Gracia E, Lopez-Sabater MC, Vinyoles E, Aros F, Conde M, Lahoz C, Lapetra J, Saez G, Ros E; PREDIMED Study Investigators. Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular risk factors: A randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 2006;145:1-11.
7. Schroder H, Marrugat J, Vila J, Covas MI, Elosua R. Adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet is inversely associated with body mass index and obesity in a Spanish population. J Nutr 004;134:3355- 3361.

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The Mediterranean Diet

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
The Mediterranean Diet

The term, “Mediterranean Diet,” implying that all Mediterranean people have the same diet, is a misnomer. The peoples of the Mediterranean region have a variety of diets, religions and cultures, and their diets differ somewhat in fat, olive oil, meat, wine, fruit, vegetable and dairy product contents. What most people think of when they hear the phrase, “Mediterranean Diet,” actually is the traditional diet of Greece prior to 1960.3 Nonetheless, the concept of a “Mediterranean Diet” has become a permanent part of the public consciousness.

Dietary lifestyle patterns that now are considered to be reflective of the Mediterranean Diet include the consumption of abundant amounts of fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grain breads, beans, nuts and seeds.1,3 The fruits and vegetables usually are fresh, minimally processed, and grown relatively locally (with little commercial shipping). Concentrated simple sugars and processed flour products are avoided. In contrast to westernized practices, the major source of dietary fats is olive oil. Eggs, cheese, yogurt and lean red meats are consumed only occasionally and milk is avoided. Wine (more often, red wine) is consumed with restraint and with meals.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
The Mediterranean Diet and Health Benefits – What Does the Data Say?

References:
1. Serra-Majem L, Roman B, Estruch R. Scientific evidence of interventions using the Mediterranean diet: A systematic review. Nutr Rev 2006;64:S27-S47.
3. Simopoulos AP. The Mediterranean diets: What is so special about the diet of Greece? The scientific evidence. J Nutr 2001;131:3065S-3073S.

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