MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Researchers have looked for ways to reduce people's risk of this disease and other heart-related issues. Diet is one of the areas of focus. Many studies show that the Mediterranean Diet improves heart health. Knowing what the MedDiet is, what the diet consists of, and how it can be useful can encourage people to make similar changes and adopt an eating style if they have a family history of cardiovascular disease or simply want to live a healthier life.

The MedDiet, which comes from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, is a heart healthy diet. Sara Young, a Registered Dietitian at the Madigan Army Medical Center, recently shared her thoughts on the MedDiet.

"We can all agree that a healthy diet is one that limits processed foods and highlights whole food sources. The Mediterranean style of eating is a great guide for those looking to eat a bit healthier," she said.

The benefits from the MedDiet come from its whole food sources. The diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish, and healthy fats. The MedDiet also limits red meat and focuses on low-fat dairy sources. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables provides vitamins and minerals that can be helpful in promoting a heart healthy diet. Whole grains are high in fiber, which can help lower fat levels and inflammation; this can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Nuts and legumes have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Lean sources of protein like fish are often chosen instead of red meats to lower intake of saturated fat. Healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado, are also important and can help reduce inflammation.

The MedDiet can be helpful for anyone. Young explained whom she would recommend the diet to.

"I would and I do recommend this style of eating," she said. "Most anyone can benefit from it, but especially those with chronic disease such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic disease. Others that may benefit are those with chronic inflammation or pain, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, recurrent injury, and auto-immune disease, as the benefits of Mediterranean eating are anti-inflammatory."

Anyone can benefit from following the MedDiet especially those at risk of cardiovascular disease or other heart related conditions. If you are unsure of where to start, visiting a registered dietitian can be helpful. They can help provide recommendations and goals to work towards when improving your diet.