Life Extension Magazine®

Salmon and asparagus dish a part of the Mediterranean diet

The Complete Mediterranean Diet

In The Complete Mediterranean Diet—Everything You Need to Know to Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease, author Michael Ozner, MD, explains the Mediterranean diet’s role in preventing heart disease and boosting health.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension.

Michael Ozner, MD
Michael Ozner, MD

Everything You Need To Know To Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk Of Heart Disease

Dr. Michael Ozner is an award-winning pioneer in the field of preventative cardiology. He’s Medical Director of both Wellness and Prevention at Baptist Health South Florida and the Cardiovascular Prevention Institute of South Florida, and was recently elected to “Top Cardiologists in America” by the Consumer Council.

Dr. Ozner started his prevention-only cardiology practice over 20 years ago. He knew that surgical intervention wasn’t enough to stop the spread of America’s number-one killer. Patients who had undergone surgical procedures were returning for a second or third intervention while waiting in dread for their next cardiac event to occur.

“This is when I got interested in prevention,” says Dr. Ozner, who has written numerous books, including The Great American Heart Hoax, Heart Attack Proof, and The Miami Mediterranean Diet. “Heart disease is really a conglomeration of different insults to our bodies, all of which can be controlled by a three-part program of prevention and lifestyle changes: nutrition, exercise, and stress management. Along with smoking cessation, using these prevention strategies in my own practice has resulted in a significant reduction in patients developing heart attacks if they hadn’t had one, and those who had were less likely to require repeat intervention.”

In this exclusive interview with Life Extension®, Dr. Ozner describes how a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is a game-changer when it comes to good health.

LE: You describe the average American lifestyle as “toxic.” What do you consider so deadly about our diet and lifestyle?

MO: Our food is contaminated with pesticides and preservatives, and contains an excessive amount of dangerous fats, sugars, and salt. We no longer exercise and our lives are plagued by chronic stress.

In the last 50 years, there’s been an explosive rise in heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity—diseases that have been directly linked to the food we eat and the lifestyles we lead. Despite the billions of dollars we spend on health care, we continue to suffer and die unnecessarily from diseases that can be prevented.

LE: You practice preventative cardiology and focus on three key areas to keep cardiovascular disease at bay: nutrition, exercise, and stress management. Why is the Mediterranean diet such an important part of your disease-prevention plan? And what about the two-thirds of American adults who are overweight and need to shed pounds for health reasons?

MO: The Mediterranean diet—a well-balanced diet including healthy fats and complex carbohydrates—offers the best alternative if you’re looking to lose weight without sacrificing your health. There’s a reason the Mediterranean diet has been around for thousands of years. By pairing this diet with increased exercise and lowered stress, you don’t just lose weight, but lower your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure—and that’s just the beginning!

LE: What are some of the other chronic conditions that the Mediterranean diet protects against?

MO: The diet and lifestyle lowers the risk of a multitude of chronic diseases. It has been shown to reduce the risk of allergies, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, cancer, lung disease, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, and metabolic syndrome.

LE: How can one single eating plan afford all these benefits?

MO: That’s a fair question. The secret seems to lie in the fact that the Mediterranean diet is synergistic. That means that the components are not only nutritious in themselves, but when combined with one another, act together to provide added benefits. They are more powerful in combination than if they were eaten separately.

The Mediterranean diet is full of fruits and vegetables, which help prevent the damage to your body’s cells that cause heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. It also features whole-grain foods rich in fiber, which has been shown to help balance cholesterol and prevent some forms of cancer. It also decreases inflammation—which is strongly linked to the development of heart disease, cancer, and other ailments like arthritis.

LE: You call stress a “silent killer.” What specifically makes stress so deadly? And why is stress reduction such an integral part of the Mediterranean lifestyle?

MO: Chronic stress increases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn increase blood pressure, causing the heartbeat to become rapid and increase the likelihood of forming blood clots. Studies show chronic stress significantly increases the risk of heart attack.

People in Mediterranean countries tend to have less stress compared to their American counterparts. They spend more time enjoying meals with friends and family. They often relax and take a nap after lunch. A recent study showed that a regular midday nap reduced risk of death from heart disease by 37%.

LE: If a lunchtime nap is not realistic, what other steps for stress-reduction do you recommend?

MO: The first step in handling stress is to take a realistic view of the factors responsible for stress in our lives and try to modify them. Next, I recommend physical exercise, not because exercise eliminates stress, but because people who exercise are better able to handle it. I also encourage my patients to begin relaxation response training—yoga, self-hypnosis, or meditation. Finally, prayer offers significant stress reduction for some.

LE: Before we share some of your favorite recipes, do you have any final tips for our readers about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle?

MO: Eat a variety of fresh, non-processed food, limit portion sizes, and avoid saturated fat, trans fats, refined sugar, and excess alcohol. Relax—and never lose your sense of humor. Laugh, smile, and enjoy life!

Asparagus With Fresh Garden Herbs

The Complete Mediterranean Diet—Everything You Need to Know to Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease features over 500 recipes, from soups and salads to main courses and delicious desserts. Here are two easy-to-make dishes you can serve tonight.

Roasted Salmon With Wilted Spinach

  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 4 (4-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
  • 1 (9-ounce) bag fresh spinach

Preheat oven and a shallow, heavy-bottomed roasting pan to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine sugar, paprika, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt. Rub both sides of fillets evenly with spice mixture and place in roasting pan. Roast for roughly 10 minutes, turning once after five minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. While fish is roasting, add oil to skillet over medium heat, then add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add a few bunches of spinach at a time, until all is wilted. When fillets are cooked, divide spinach onto four plates, top each with a salmon fillet, and serve.

Makes 4 servings • Approx. 292 calories per serving • 26g protein, 19g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0 trans fat, 4g carbohydrate, 70mg cholesterol, 106mg sodium, 1g fiber

Asparagus With Fresh Garden Herbs

  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons trans fat-free canola/olive oil spread, melted
  • 2 Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Simmer asparagus in an inch of water for five minutes until crispy tender. Drain well and place on serving platter. Combine parsley, basil, pepper, and canola/olive oil spread. Drizzle over asparagus, sprinkle on chopped tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Makes 4 servings • Approx. 85 calories per serving • 4g protein, 9g total fat, 1g saturated fat,
0 trans fat, 4g carbohydrate, 2mg cholesterol, 119mg sodium, 2g fiber

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

The Complete Mediterranean Diet
Item #33867

Michael Ozner, MD, FACC, FAHA, is a board-certified cardiologist, a Fellow of both the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, Medical Director of Wellness and Prevention at Baptist Health South Florida, and a well-known regional and national speaker in the field of preventative cardiology. He was the recipient of the 2008 American Heart Association Humanitarian Award and was elected to “Top Cardiologist in America” by the Consumer Council of America. Dr. Ozner is the author of The Great American Heart Hoax, Heart Attack Proof, and The Miami Mediterranean Diet.

He is also a member of the Life Extension Foundation®’s Scientific Advisory Board.

To order The Complete Mediterranean Diet, call 1-800-544-4440