A new study shows there’s yet another reason to eat your fruits and vegetables–as well as a healthy dose of nuts, whole grains and olive oil.
It will make you less likely to have a stroke.
According to the study, people who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of ischemic stroke–those strokes caused by a blood clot, representing 87 percent of all stroke cases.
Called the California Teachers Study and led by Dr. Ayesha Sherzai, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, the study did not show reduced risk for a hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by a bleed and far less common.
A Mediterranean diet is based on the cuisine of Greece, Southern Italy and Spain. It includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry and olive oil. It limits eating red meats, sweets and saturated fats found in butter and high-fat dairy products.
“What we learn from this is the principle of having a good diet, which is age-old,” said Vivek Rai, MD, vascular neurologist with Spectrum Health Medical Group.
As a starting point, Dr. Rai encourages his patients to follow the basics of the Mediterranean diet by adding more fruits and green leafy vegetables, eating nuts of any kind in moderation, and eating lean proteins such as poultry and fish rather than red meats.
“The way I see it, you learn the principles of a good diet and then you do that in your own way, rather than thinking that people from the Mediterranean know the secret to a healthy life,” he said. “If you have bacon and eggs for breakfast, instead of bacon maybe have fish, turkey or chicken breast, or just eggs. Instead of pork chops for dinner, have turkey. Instead of a brownie or muffin for a snack, eat nuts. That way you can incorporate the principles of a healthy diet, but still maintain your cultural tastes and preferences.”
Irene Franowicz, RD, CDE, outpatient dietitian with Spectrum Health Medical Group, recently attended the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference in Napa Valley, California, where she heard the Mediterranean diet touted as one of the greatest researched, most evidence-based diet with the best long-term results.
Its benefits go beyond reduced stroke risk to decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and depression–in addition to helping dieters lose weight and keep it off, she said.
Franowicz offers these simple tips in her class, Eating the Mediterranean Way:
- Follow the 4 S’s–soups, salads, stir fry, smoothies–for easy ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet.
- Learn to plan your weekly menu in twos: two meatless meals per week, two seafood meals per week, two servings of olive oil or nuts per day.
- Have a handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds or pistachios every day.
- Cook with olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
- Make your own simple salad dressing with olive oil and vinegar instead of buying processed salad dressing.
- Incorporate whole grains, as well as wet grains, such as quinoa, wheat berries and couscous, into your diet.