Managing LDL cholesterol: Is a Mediterranean diet not as effective? A new study has some pointers
Celebrity nutritionist Nupur Patil, brand ambassador of Fit India and a selection member of Olympic India, shares how to plan meals that work for you
Has the Mediterranean diet been overhyped as a cholesterol-lowering tool? For a long time, most studies found it lowered low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and made for healthier meals because of its focus on vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats, fish and seafood. Now a new study by Lausanne University in Switzerland has indicated that following the Mediterranean diet may not have as much impact on cholesterol levels as previously reported.
According to celebrity nutritionist Nupur Patil, brand ambassador of Fit India and a selection member of Olympic India, the efficacy of a Mediterranean diet depends on other aspects of health such as the presence of co-morbidities and food allergies. This is why Indians, particularly those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or heart disease, should consult their treating doctor before embracing a Mediterranean diet and see if the changeover suits their body condition or not.
What are the pros of a Mediterranean diet?
A Mediterranean diet is rich in essential micronutrients, antioxidants and fibres derived primarily from a plant-based diet as opposed to only meat consumption.
When can a Mediterranean diet go wrong?
Although the Mediterranean diet includes healthy food items, we must not overindulge ourselves. Overeating healthy fats and whole grains, which are important ingredients of a Mediterranean diet, can do more harm than good. Therefore, keeping a watch on when and how much you eat is equally important as what you eat.
How does the diet impact cholesterol levels?
Olive oil is a key component of this diet, being rich in monounsaturated fats. These help increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or the good cholesterol while reducing LDL. Heavily reliant on fish, a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids, as the source of protein, these can lower triglycerides.
Does the Mediterranean diet suit Indians?
Undoubtedly, it is one of the healthiest diets in the world and works equally well for Indians. However, its effectiveness depends on other aspects of health such as the presence of comorbidities and food allergies. Most Indians live with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or heart disease. These could hinder them from availing the full benefits of such a diet. Moreover, since this diet includes calorie-dense foods like olive oils and nuts, consulting a dietitian to prepare your meal plan is the best approach.
What are some of the food items of a Mediterranean diet that we can easily access and cook?
Following a Mediterranean diet need not involve breaking the bank. One can make use of easily available and affordable ingredients and get maximum health benefits. These items include fruits like apples, bananas and oranges; vegetables like cauliflower, onions, garlic and carrots; legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas; whole grains such as oats and whole wheat bread; animal products, including dairy, like cheese, yogurt and milk; fish such as salmon and tuna; chicken and eggs; and healthy fats such as olives and avocados.
What should we keep in mind while having a Mediterranean diet?
Follow fitness routines, participate in physical activities and watch out for your hydration to maximise the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. As for stubborn cholesterol, one has to take statins. Include plenty of fibre in your diet if you have a healthy gut as that will clean out the cholesterol from your body.