For women, switching over to the traditional Mediterranean diet, can almost double their fruit and vegetable intakes and dramatically increase their consumption of "good" fats, according to a new study.
During the study, 69 women were divided into two groups. In one group, registered dieticians used an "exchange list" of foods that are common in a Mediterranean diet to make a plan for each participant.
The new plan maintained the caloric and total fat intakes that the participants consumed at the beginning of the study.
The list included suggested servings, or exchanges, of several categories of foods-such as dark green vegetables, such as spinach, or high-monounsaturated fats, such olive oil.
The dieticians also provided counselling on the telephone to help the participants to make the dietary changes, as well as in-person sessions at the start of the study and three months later.
The second group continued their usual diet and did not receive any dietary counselling, though they were offered one free dietary counselling session after they completed their part in the study.
The research team found that the group that followed the exchange-list plan reached the goals of the Mediterranean diet within three months, and maintained the change for the six-month duration of the study.
"That tells us that the exchange list was helpful in assisting women to make major changes in their diet, without changes in their caloric or total fat intake," said lead author Zora Djuric, Ph.D., research professor of Family Medicine at the U-M Medical School.
Djuric said that Mediterranean diets have been associated with health benefits such as lower risks for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Recent studies also have suggested that such a diet can increase longevity, but this data is from observational studies of Europeans who followed a traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern.
The study appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.