Paula Przywojski: Eating Heart Healthy the Mediterranean Way – The Courier Life News

Paula Przywojski: Eating Heart Healthy the Mediterranean Way


February is American Heart Month. The American Heart Association uses this month to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can prevent it. Heart Disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease.

To lower your risk:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get active and eat healthy.

The Mediterranean diet is an example of a healthy-eating plan that is based on traditional eating habits of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. People who follow this plan have a longer life expectancy and lower rates of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.


eating goals:Vegetables

  • : Eat 2 or more servings daily. A serving is 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked. Use fresh or frozen without added salt or sauces
  • : Eat 2 to 3 servings per day or more. One serving is 1 whole fresh fruit, medium size or about 1 cup of fresh fruit, like berries, melon or grapes. If you buy frozen, look for products that contain no added sugar or syrup.

Fish and shellfish:

  • Eat 3 or more servings per week. One serving is 3-5 ounces of fish, like cod, tilapia, walleye, salmon, tuna, trout, and whitefish. One serving of shellfish, like shrimp, scallop, crab or lobster, is 6-7 ounces. One or more of the servings should be a fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel or trout.

White meat:

  • Choose white meats, such as chicken and turkey, without the skin. One serving is 3 ounces—about the size or a deck of cards.

Legumes and beans: Eat 3 or more servings per week. One serving is a 1/2 cup cooked. Examples of legumes are split peas, lentils and peanuts. Examples of beans are red, green, black, Lima, kidney, soy, and navy. Most legumes and beans are high in fiber and protein and low in fat. Limit you intake of peanuts as they are high in fat.


  • 100% whole grain or whole wheat bread is an importance part of the diet. Often bread is dipped in olive oil. Try whole-grain cereals too.

Nuts and seeds:

  • Eat 1 or more servings per week or raw, unsalted nuts or seeds. One serving is 1/4 cup. Nuts give you a full feeling, so limit your intake to one serving per day. Eat them before a meal; avoid eating nuts or seeds at the end of the day. Suggested tree nuts as snacks include walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Nuts are high in fat, but most of it is the healthy unsaturated fat.

Healthy fat, including olive oil:

  • Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat -a type of fat that can help reduce your “bad” cholesterol level-LDL cholesterol. “Extra-virgin” and Virgin” olive oil are the least processed forms and also provide antioxidant benefits. Canola oil is another good option.

Red meat and processed meats:

  • Limit your intake to 3 oz. (1 serving) per week of hamburger, hot dogs, sausages, brats, pork, veal, cured ham, cold cuts, and packaged lunch meat.

High-fat dairy products:

  • Avoid or limit your intake of whole and 2% milk, butter, margarine, and ice cream. Limit your intake of cured, cheese and fatty cheese to one serving per week—the size of four dice. Cured cheese is aged 6 months or more. Some fatty cheeses are cheddar, cream cheese, brie, and bleu cheese. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.

Raise a glass to healthy eating:

  • It it’s OK with your doctor, you may have one glass of wine at dinner. If you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t need to start. In general, 5 oz. is considered one glass of wine.

Enjoy these other foods in moderation:

  • Eggs: Limit 3 to 4 egg yolks per week
  • Dark Chocolate: Choose chocolate with at least 50% cocoa.

Relax and enjoy eating: Sit at a table for at least two lunches or dinners per week. Take at least 20 minutes to enjoy those meals and try to eat as many meals as possible with family and friends!

You may not be able to achieve these eating goals all at once! Make small, gradual changes that are realistic for you and your family. As you can see, eating more plant based foods and less meat is a main factor in the Mediterranean diet. These plant based foods are carbohydrate rich. These are the “healthy carbs” vs junk foods carbs, like sweets and processed snack foods like crackers, pretzels, and chips.

The Mediterranean diet is also about enjoying delicious foods — as you’ll discover when you try these recipes by Mayo Clinic Staff.

Pasta with Spinach, Garbanzos and Raisins

Serves 6

8 ounces (about 3 cups) dry bow tie pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed

½ of a 19 ounces can of garbanzos, rinsed and drained

½ cup unsalted chicken broth

½ cup golden raisins

4 cups fresh spinach, chopped

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Black pepper to taste

Directions: Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender), 10-12 minutes or according to the packaged directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Add the garbanzos and vegetable broth. Stir until warmed through. Add the raisins and spinach. Heat just until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Don’t overcook. Divide the pasta among the plates. Top each serving with 1/6 of the sauce, 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Per serving (about 2 ½ cups): Calories 283 calories, Fat 7 g, Monounsaturated fat 4 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Protein 11 g, Carbohydrates 44 g, Dietary Fiber 6 g, Sodium 130 mg.

Herb Marinated Salmon

Serves 4

4 4-ounce pieces of fresh salmon

¼ cup herb oil-see recipe below

Directions: Place salmon and fresh herb oil in a covered container. Mix well so herbs evenly cover salmon. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and a maximum of 24 hours. Grill salmon for 5 minutes on each side and finish on the shelf in the grill. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillet. Note: You can also sear salmon in a pan on the stove and finish in the oven.

Per serving (4 ounces): Calories 310, Fat 23 g, Saturated fat 4 g, Monounsaturated fat 9 g, Polyunsaturated fat 7 g, Sodium 70 mg, Carbohydrate 0 g, Protein 24 g

Herb Oil

Serves 32

1 cup chopped parsley (about 1 bunch)

1 cup chopped basil (about 2 packets)

¼ cup chopped rosemary (about 1 packet)

2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 1 bulb)

2 cups canola oil

Directions: Remove stems from basil and rosemary and chop. Remove larger stems from parsley and chop. Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor. Store in glass jar with herbs covered in oil and mixture will last 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. “Packet” is 3 oz. container found in most stores.

Per serving (1 tablespoon): Calories 120, Fat 14 g, Saturated fat 1 g, Monounsaturated fat 9 g, Polyunsaturated fat 4 g, Sodium 1 mg, Carbohydrate 0.5 g


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