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05 Feb

The Mediterranean diet was recently hailed by the World Health Organisation as one of the healthiest on the planet.

And the 5:2 diet is an effective way to keep healthy by eating Mediterranean-style food. The 5:2 diet involves eating a healthy Mediterranean-style diet for five days of the week and cutting your intake to about 800 calories for two Fast Days of the week.

You’re free to choose which day and they don’t have to be consecutive. You can also choose how to divide your calories: you could have one big meal, or have two or three smaller meals.

In terms of heart health and longevity, some research suggests the positive effect of this way of eating may extend beyond mere weight loss. Studies suggest that intermittent fasting (IF) may have an impact on the energy-producing components of cells, keeping them in a ‘youthful state’.

Animal studies have also shown intermittent fasting can extend lifespan and reduce the risk of some diseases.

Try this simple diet routine…

• Cut out sugary treats and desserts.

• Reduce the white stuff: white bread, white pasta, white potatoes, white rice. Switch instead to wholegrain versions or try quinoa, bulgur wheat, or even cauliflower (grated and lightly steamed it is a plausible rice substitute)

• Pile your plate with coloured vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and lentils. Anything with lots of fibre in it will help. One reason is that by eating food rich in fibre you are feeding your microbiome, the microbes that live in your guts.

The good ones will turn that fibre into chemicals that reduce inflammation, not just in the gut but in the heart as well.

• Eat generous amounts of olive oil and oily fish. Both are heart friendly, containing healthy fats that help boost healthy cholesterol levels and mop up bad cholesterol in the blood, while reducing inflammation, and will help keep away hunger cravings.

• If you are a heavy drinker then you will have to cut down on alcohol. The occasional glass of red wine, packed with flavonoids, won’t do your heart any harm and may do some good, Stick to 14 units or less a week and a 5:2 pattern – take a couple of days off.

• Don’t overdo the fruit: berries, apples or pears are fine but tropical fruits such as grapes, pineapple, melon and bananas are full of sugar.

• Include plenty of protein – at least 50g a day. Protein keeps you fuller for longer and you bum more energy digesting it than carbs. Processed meats such as bacon and sausages should be eaten in moderation – not more than a few times a week. High-quality proteins to go for include: lean meat, oily fish, seafood and tofu, soya, edamame beans and Quorn.

• Go to work on an egg. They do not increase cholesterol. At just 80 calories each, boiled, poached, scrambled or as an omelette, eggs are a great breakfast option and will keep you feeling full for longer than a cereal-based breakfast such as toast or cornflakes.

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