When we think of “Mediterranean,” we think olive oil on everything, on pasta, salad, and even dessert. However, the Mediterranean diet isn’t just about the olive oil. It’s about the nuts, cheese, yogurt, fruits and vegetables, too. A study posted on TIME shows that this diet, combined with extra-virgin olive oil, can truly lower heart disease risk.

Led by Dr. Ramón Estruch from the Department of Internal Medicine at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, the study pitted the Mediterranean diet against a conventional low-fat diet. Participants were tracked for signs of heart disease or heart-related illnesses. The results reveal that those on the Mediterranean diet high in extra virgin olive oil and those on the same diet but high in nuts had the lowest risk of heart-related diseases as opposed to those on the low fat diet--30 percent lower, in fact.

“We think the strength of this study comes from the fact that we measured hard outcomes and not just blood pressure or changes in cholesterol levels,” says Estruch. As an added precaution, the researches made adjustments to total consumed calories of the participants, since the people who were in the study ranged from fit to obese.

While there are limitations to the study, the evidence to back up the Mediterranean diet is convincing enough for the researchers to recommend it to people as an alternative dietary plan to reduce the risk of heart disease.

If you're interested in the Mediterranean diet, start simply by replacing red meat with white meat, and have more than three servings of fish in a week. It's also a must to have at least a couple servings of fruits and vegetables in a day. Of course, let loose with the extra-virgin olive oil by using it to replace your usual cooking oil fare. Consume nuts such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, and steer clear of red meat and soda. For more information, check out our article on five things you should know about the Mediterranean diet.

(Photo by MonaLMtz via Flickr Creative Commons)

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