Sun-ripened strawberries on oatmeal; a handful of walnuts to get through that 4 o’clock slump; grilled salmon, roasted veggies and a salad drizzled with olive oil for dinner: At last, we’ve got solid proof that scrumptious foods like these can slash your risk for stroke and other cardiovascular disasters by a whopping 30 percent. It’s thanks to a headline-grabbing study from Spain that overhauled the diets of 7,447 people (even though the researchers made a big flub when they conducted the study; more on that in a minute).
Two-thirds of the study’s participants conscientiously followed heart-healthy Mediterranean diet plans — plenty of produce, dried beans and fish, with an extra dose of good fats from olive oil or nuts.
The rest of the participants were supposed to eat a low-fat diet (with no olive oil or nuts), but the researchers left them on their own. So guess what happened? These folks weren’t able to learn the low-fat regimen and their diets were a disaster. They ate more bad fats, munched heart threats like refined grains (white bread, white rice, white pasta) and drank sugary sodas.
So in reality — and contrary to what many TV shows and newspapers reported — the study doesn’t prove Mediterranean diets are healthier than a low-fat diet, because nobody ate low fat! What it does show is that Mediterranean eating styles (or in this case, SSD for “standard Spanish diet”) trump the typical fat-, sugar- and chemical-laden North American diet (called SAD for “standard American diet”) when it comes to stroke and heart-attack prevention!
We’re fans of this study for another reason, too. It proved that what you eat matters big time, even for people with optimal medical and medication management! The scientists recruited men and women in their 50s through their 80s with diabetes or at least three risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high LDL “lousy” cholesterol levels or a family history of early heart disease. And those folks saw big benefits from eating the SSD diets — even if they were already taking medication for high cholesterol or high blood pressure. (Another 30,000-plus person study reinforces this finding: It reported that people taking heart-protecting medications who adopted a healthy diet slashed their risk for stroke, heart attack and heart-related deaths by as much as 35 percent.)
Heart-health experts are hailing the news as a way of eating healthfully that lets you actually enjoy life, and we agree! Both of us enjoy eating this way, and it’s the foundation of the meal plans you’ll find (with plenty of recipes) in “YOU: On a Diet.” It’s also the highly successful diet of the Lifestyle 180 program, developed by Dr. Mike for the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. Put it on your plate today with these four easy steps:
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.sharecare.com.