Amy: Today, we’re talking about the Mediterranean Diet. Hello, I’m Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm & Family. We’re speaking with Nia Eddie, a Dietetic Intern from Mississippi State University. Nia, you’re here to talk to us about heart health and the Mediterranean diet. Can you tell us why you think it’s important?
Nia: Hi Amy. In the United States, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, accounting for about 610,000 deaths annually, which accounts for 1 out of every 4 deaths. The state of Mississippi currently has the highest rate of cardiovascular disease mortality in the nation.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, obesity, too much alcohol, and tobacco use as behavioral risk factors for heart disease.
There are several studies, including one recently done by Harvard, that claim the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk factors of heart disease.
Amy: Can you tell us more about the Mediterranean diet and how it works?
Nia: The Mediterranean diet is based off the diet of countries near the Mediterranean Sea such as Spain, Greece, and the southern regions of France and Italy. It emphasizes eating primarily plant based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. It also emphasizes; limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month, eating fish and poultry at least twice a week, replacing butter with other fats such as olive oil and canola oil, replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil, and using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
Eating these foods increases consumption of antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids which protect against cardiovascular disease and help reduce “bad” cholesterol respectively.
Amy: The Mediterranean Diet seems to be beneficial to prevent cardiovascular disease. Why do you think more people don’t follow it?
Nia: Sometimes people can be resistant to change if there’s not an immediate need to do so, but even making the smallest changes can still help. It can be as simple as making meatballs with turkey meat instead of beef, switching out butter for olive oil, or replacing chips with a serving of fruit.
Sometimes people believe that they can’t afford or don’t have the time to eat healthy which can be a misconception. Following the Mediterranean diet may not be as cheap as some fast food restaurants, but investing in your health and lowering your risk of heart disease can save you money on health care in the long run.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a great option, and you can buy them in season at your local farmer’s market or the grocery store; but canned fruits and vegetables may be a cheaper option and can replace them if needed. If you do buy canned fruits, try to avoid those packaged in syrup, and look for low sugar products if available. When buying canned vegetables, choose low sodium products if available. You can purchase meat and fish either fresh or frozen, but you can typically save money buying frozen products.
In regard to not having enough time to prepare healthy meals, preparation in advance is the key. If possible, you can meal prep over the weekend or whenever best fits your schedule to ensure you have healthy meals throughout the week.
Using a crock pot is also a great option. You can put your ingredients and seasonings in the crockpot in the morning, and keep it on low heat throughout the day, and come home to a hot, healthy meal after work. The “What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl website has several recipes available that can be prepared using a crock pot.
Amy: These all sound like wonderful ideas. Is there any other information you want to leave listeners with?
Nia: I just want to emphasize that changing your diet doesn’t have to be drastic. Start with small changes and gradually increase practicing healthier eating habits. Again, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and starting small can have a large impact in the long run.
Amy: Today, we’ve been speaking with Nia Eddie, Dietetic Intern from Mississippi State University. I’m Amy Myers, and this has been Farm & Family. Have a great day!