The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating approach. It mainly focuses on plant-based foods, fatty fish, minimal meat and dairy foods. This diet is well known for its potential to decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol levels and reducing mortality from cardiovascular conditions.
It increases the intake of fresh and natural foods and shuns processed food products. Therefore, the Mediterranean diet is ideal for long and healthy life. In addition, this diet comprises all the essential nutrients for a balanced diet. Incorporating some of the principles can give you exciting dinner ideas that are also great for managing abnormal cholesterol levels in the body.
Benefits of Mediterranean Diet
Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
A Mediterranean diet can help lower various risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including cholesterol levels. In addition, a 2016 study found that people who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop heart disease.
LDL or “bad” cholesterol is one important marker of health, and if its levels are too high, it can give rise to various health problems. However, a study found that a Mediterranean diet improved triglyceride levels.
Aids in Weight Loss
The Mediterranean diet is an excellent choice for long-term weight loss because it allows for many foods and flavours, so you don’t get bored or feel restricted. The Mediterranean and low-carb diets showed similar weight loss as per a research study. Since the diet includes lots of healthy fats and protein and focuses on fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, and nuts, it keeps you fuller longer.
Helps Manage Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet emphasises consuming whole grains and carbs from vegetables, which don’t affect your blood sugar in the same way as refined carbs such as pasta. Moreover, the diet discourages too many sweets and desserts. A 2014 review investigated the effect of the Mediterranean diet on diabetes risk, and the researchers found that following a Mediterranean diet can decrease the risk for diabetes by up to 19%.
Mediterranean Diet Dinner: Foods to Eat
Olive oil, the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, has numerous benefits and a rich nutritional value. Its antioxidants offer protection from high cholesterol risks such as cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, brain dysfunction, and cancer. Olive oil also lowers the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, bowel disease and helps prevent inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance.
The nutritional contents of extra virgin olive oil per 1tbsp ml of serving are:
Energy: 119 kcalProtein: 0 gTotal fat: 13.5 gCarbohydrate: 0 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, celery, carrots, leafy greens and onions are low in calories, high in fibre and contain protein. But, according to a study, stress can lead to high cholesterol by initiating chronic inflammation and plaque form. Still, vegetables can help excrete the cholesterol in the body through the stool.
The nutritional contents of some vegetables per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 18 kcalProtein: 0.88 gTotal fat: 0.2 gCarbohydrate: 3.89 gTotal dietary fibre: 1.2 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Energy: 35 kcalProtein: 2.92 gTotal fat: 1.49 gCarbohydrate: 4.42 gTotal dietary fibre: 4.1 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids can positively impact your cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids also lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function, and ease inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce blood triglycerides, reduce clotting, and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure. In addition, consuming fatty fish can reduce the risk of dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases. Examples are anchovies, salmon, and tuna.
The nutritional contents of some fish per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 109 kcalProtein: 24.4 gTotal fat: 0.49 gCarbohydrate: 0 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 gCholesterol: 39 mg
Energy: 142 kcalProtein: 19.8 gTotal fat: 6.34 gCarbohydrate: 0 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 gCholesterol: 55 mg
Whole grains are a complete package of vitamins and minerals because of their fibre-rich bran, starchy endosperm, and the germ, packed with nutrients. In addition, according to research, the consumption of whole-grain foods lowers LDL cholesterol.
Brown rice contains complex carbohydrates that help you manage your cholesterol and lose weight. A study established that rice bran oil (RBO) in brown rice induces cholesterol reduction by absorption-reabsorption and downregulation of cholesterol synthesis. Moreover, it helps to nourish blood vessels, regulate insulin secretion, enhance kidney and liver function and prevent chronic alcohol disease.
The nutritional contents of brown rice per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 360 kcalProtein: 8 gTotal fat: 3 gCarbohydrate: 78 gTotal dietary fibre: 4 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Quinoa is an ancient, gluten-free grain that has recently gained popularity for its high fibre and protein content. As a result, quinoa is a valuable dietary choice for vegans and vegetarians. Studies show that consuming quinoa with your diet significantly lowers cholesterol in your body due to fibre and phytochemicals. In addition, it offers iron, copper, thiamin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and folate. It also acts as a prebiotic that supplies beneficial gut bacteria, thriving and improving gut health.
The nutritional contents of cooked quinoa per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 120 kcalProtein: 4.4 gTotal fat: 1.92 gCarbohydrate: 21.3 gTotal dietary fibre: 2.8 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Nuts are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. They contain heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. That means consuming nuts can cut the risk for coronary heart disease and various other heart conditions linked to cholesterol. In a review, people eating approximately 67g of nuts a day led to a 5.1% reduction in total cholesterol and 7.4% for LDL. In addition, the nutritional composition of nuts can reduce diabetes risk, promoting weight loss and fighting inflammation.
The nutritional contents of some nuts per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 596 kcalProtein: 21.2 gTotal fat: 46.9 gCarbohydrate: 22.3 gTotal dietary fibre: 3.3 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Energy: 620 kcalProtein: 21.2 gTotal fat: 49.9 gCarbohydrate: 21.6 gTotal dietary fibre: 12.5 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Seeds are a rich source of heart-healthy fats and contain a lot of soluble fibre, making them a key element to the Mediterranean diet. In addition, seeds offer a wide range of essential nutrients, such as magnesium and potassium, and are an excellent source of protein. The prominent seeds are sunflower, pumpkin, chia, and flax seeds. To incorporate them quickly, you can sprinkle toasted seeds in your quinoa or salad bowl, giving it a crunchy texture. Tahini sauce is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, and it is a paste made from sesame seeds.
The nutritional contents of some of the seeds per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 573 kcalProtein: 17.7 gTotal fat: 49.7 gCarbohydrate: 23.4 gTotal dietary fibre: 11.8 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Energy: 283 kcalProtein: 11.67 gTotal fat: 25 gCarbohydrate: 10 gTotal dietary fibre: 5 gCholesterol: 0 mg
One usually eats eggs for breakfast in the Mediterranean. They’re an excellent source of protein and offer other healthy vitamins and minerals. However, they are consumed in moderation as they are a rich source of cholesterol. So, more egg whites can be prefered.
The nutritional contents of 1 large egg of serving are:
Energy: 77 kcalProtein: 6.3 gTotal fat: 5.3 gCarbohydrate: 0.6 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 g
Fruits are a perfect choice for cholesterol patients because they are associated with reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. For example, the bioactive polyphenols and fibre found in apples have beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and other risk factors of cardiovascular disease. Other fruits like blueberries, pomegranate and strawberries are high in soluble fibre and low in sugar which also helps lower LDL cholesterol. You can add fruits to oatmeal, a salad or snacks for health and taste.
The nutritional contents of some of the fruits per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 52 kcalProtein: 0.26 gTotal fat: 0.17 gCarbohydrate: 13.8 gTotal dietary fibre: 2.4 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Energy: 69 kcalProtein: 0.72 gTotal fat: 0.16 gCarbohydrate: 18.1 gTotal dietary fibre: 0.9 gCholesterol: 0 mg
The Mediterranean Foods to Avoid
The Mediterranean diet avoids the following foods:
Refined grains are stripped of all nutrients and contain meagre fibre. They have a high glycemic index and hence digest quickly. It causes unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels and a build-up of fats, especially around the waistline. The Mediterranean diet completely avoids white bread, white pasta, pizza dough, white flour, white rice, and breakfast cereals.
Foods with Excess Sugar
Pastries, sodas, doughnuts, and candies have high sugar content, leading to high levels of blood triglycerides that can be a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Moreover, they contain butter, high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and sausage are from fatty cuts of beef or pork. They are smoked, salted, canned, dried, or preserved to increase their shelf life and have very little nutritional value. In addition, the high-fat content in processed meats is bad for your heart as it raises LDL cholesterol in the body. Consumption of processed meat can also be related to colorectal and stomach cancer. Hence, please limit the intake of processed meats.
Other Processed Foods
Processed foods such as mayonnaise, crackers, microwave popcorn, and potato chips use hydrogenated oil, which has high trans fats content. They include unhealthy levels of added sugar, sodium and fat, which strip the nutrients from the food. Having excess amounts of processed foods increases the risk of various health issues such as obesity, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Mediterranean Diet Dinner Plans for Cholesterol
Mediterranean diet recipes are ideally plant-based, but one must include seafood in the diet at least 2-3 times a week. Fishes like tuna and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation in the body. Some of the Mediterranean diet dinners for non-vegetarians are:
A quinoa bowl topped with sliced chicken, and vegetables.Trim chicken breast over a salad made with sautéed zucchini, tomato, and brown riceLentil salad with roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and an olive oil-based vinaigretteSalmon with quinoa and sautéed garlicky greensRoasted chicken, gnocchi, and a large salad with vinaigretteLentil soup with whole-grain roll and sauteed vegetablesSalmon cooked in olive oil and garlic, spiralized zucchini, and sweet potato.Salad topped with white beans, veggies, olives, and a small piece of chicken.Grilled salmon, roasted fennel and broccoli, arugula salad, and quinoaSteamed kale with tomato, cucumber, olives, lemon juice, and a portion of grilled sardines with a slice of lemonMixed greens with tomato and cucumber with a small portion of roasted chicken with a sprinkling of olive oil and lemon juice
Vegetarian Mediterranean style eating includes having 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Since the diet is meatless and plant-based, it also calls for consuming omega-3-fatty acids from plant sources like flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, and seaweed. When making boiled vegetable recipes, include tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, onions, olives, zucchini, spinach. Also, add several legumes like peas and beans to balance nutrients.
Baked eggplant with tomato and boiled chickpeasMediterranean cauliflower pizzaMediterranean whole grain pasta with roasted pepper, mushrooms and tofuSpinach and rice stew with beansZucchini lasagnaTofu fettuccine with brussels sprouts and mushroomsGreek salad made of peppers, olives, cucumber, onion, tomato, and beans with olive oil and vinegar dressing.Vegetable lasagna with beansMediterranean quinoa salad with chickpeasVegetable and chickpea stew Whole wheat pizza, topped with cottage cheese, vegetables, and olivesBeans and spinach soup with spinach couscous patties
The Vegan Mediterranean diet involves plant-based protein such as black beans, chickpeas, hummus, lentils, and tofu and dairy alternatives like soy, almond and coconut milk. Some vegan dinner plans include:
Sweet potatoes with chickpea tomato sauce and arugula saladMediterranean grilled tofu with vegetable brown rice or quinoaFalafel salad with tahini dressingTofu and vegetables stir fryVegan eggplant bruschetta and hummus Mediterranean roasted vegetables with tofu and quinoaChickpea and quinoa buddha bowlGrilled vegetables with bean mashSpicy Mediterranean beet salad with falafelMoroccan chickpea stewKale salad with crispy tofuChickpea tomato pasta with arugula saladLemon Mediterranean rice with chickpeasMushroom barley soup with a lentils salad topped with lightly toasted seedsQuinoa stuffed peppers with lentils soupCrisp white beans with greens and tofu
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating pattern for preventing cardiovascular diseases, increasing lifespan, and healthy ageing. You can build Mediterranean meals using olive oil by adding more vegetables, beans, and whole grains to your recipes. Also, remember to use olive oil instead of butter and include fatty fish twice or thrice a week in your meal plans.
The Mediterranean diet significantly reduces the risk of many cardiovascular diseases, lowers oxidative stress, and improves insulin sensitivity. However, the most crucial benefit of adhering to a Mediterranean diet is that you feel healthier day by day.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Are Mediterranean diets healthy?
A. Yes. Mediterranean diets include fresh and natural foods and avoiding processed foods. It comprises all the essential nutrients needed for a balanced diet. Hence, it is very healthy, especially for people with high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
Q. What home remedy can I use to lower my cholesterol?
A. There is no specific home remedy to lower cholesterols. However, you can reduce your cholesterol levels through dietary and lifestyle changes. For example, you can replace trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In addition, eating more soluble fibre and exercising regularly is beneficial. The Mediterranean diet is a perfect choice as it includes foods with naturally high fibre, which can help lower your cholesterol levels.
Q. Can lemon water help lower cholesterol?
A. Yes, lemon water may help lower cholesterol. Regular consumption of lemon juice reduces “bad” cholesterol in the body. However, lemon water alone is not enough to get efficient results. Consume more fibre rich foods like whole grains and fruits, and avoid foods rich in saturated and trans fat. In addition, following a balanced diet and doing physical activities aids in reducing cholesterol.
Q. Does turmeric lower cholesterol?
A. Yes, turmeric is a natural cardioprotective agent which exhibits LDL cholesterol-lowering effects. It helps improve blood lipid profiles in patients with obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease, or acute coronary syndrome. Moreover, turmeric offers anti-inflammatory properties which may help prevent diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Q. What is the best fruit for high cholesterol?
A. Fruits are best for high cholesterol as they are associated with reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. In addition, apples have beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and other cardiovascular disease risk factors. Other fruits like blueberries, pomegranate and strawberries are high in soluble fibre and low in sugar which also helps lower LDL cholesterol.