My latest Barley Balance post for is about how barley, the whole grain ‘smart’ carb, fits well into the Mediterranean diet food pattern and heart health connection. For this Grow with Nutrition post, I’m sharing with you the skinny on the Mediterranean diet (Mediet) foods and their relationship to our health.

The Mediet Food Pattern

It is built on a foundation of fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils, legumes, whole grains, olive oil with a moderate intake of lower fat yogurt and cheese, fish and poultry; a low intake of red meat, processed meats and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals. Remember you still have to think portion control for all the Mediet foods. The Mediet has been associated with everything from increased longevity and brain health to the reduced risk of heart disease.

Heart and Brain Health

  • Over the past 30 years, numerous studies have investigated the effects of a Mediet and have concluded that this lifestyle, along with daily activity and being a non smoker can significantly lower the risk of heart disease. A new study (1) published earlier this year indicates the Mediet supplemented with olive oil or nuts reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events by 30% in comparison with a low-fat controled diet. This finding from the primary prevention PREDIMED study conducted in Spain has been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • The variation in the plant sources in the Mediet food pattern allows for an increase in essential macronutrients, including fibre, plus antioxidants and micronutrient consumption. More research based on findings from primary prevention PREDIMED study indicates that the diet, with added extra virgin olive oil or nuts, may improve the brain power of older people even better than a low-fat diet (2).

Based on this exciting new research (which confirms previous research from my U of G undergrad days in the 1990s), it makes sense to stock up on Mediet foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, olive oil and whole grains in your daily meal plan.


To enjoy more Mediet foods this summer, try this Mediterranean tuna salad recipe from! References

  1. Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvado J, Covas M, Corella D, Aros, F et al. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. New England Journal of Medicine. 2013;368:1279-1290.
  2. Martinez-Lapiscina E H et al. Mediterranean diet improves cognition: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomised trial. Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. Published online 13 May 2013 (ahead of print).