Combining Intermittent Fasting With A Mediterranean Diet For Heart Health

Quick Links

Combining Intermittent Fasting With A Mediterranean Diet For Heart Health

Numerous studies support combining intermittent fasting with a Mediterranean diet for heart health1,2. This combination leverages the benefits of time-restricted eating and nutrient-dense Mediterranean foods, promoting cardiovascular health and overall well-being3.

The Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, has been extensively researched and proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases1,3.

Similarly, intermittent fasting, which involves alternating periods of eating and fasting, has shown significant benefits in improving metabolic health and reducing inflammation4.

Combining intermittent fasting with a Mediterranean diet for heart health not only aids in weight management but also improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood pressure5.

Overview Of A Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet revolves around healthy foods commonly found in the Mediterranean region. It emphasizes healthy fats, vegetables, whole grains, and lean animal proteins.

Although Mediterranean diets can vary by region, such as the Pesco-Mediterranean diet, they are predominantly plant-based and utilize unsaturated fats as a primary source of calories. Typical foods include:

  • Fish and seafood, such as tuna and crab.
  • Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and avocados.
  • Fruits, including apples and grapes.
  • Whole grains, like rice and corn.
  • Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and sunflower seeds.
  • Vegetables, including tomatoes and kale.
  • Poultry, like chicken and duck.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events among high-risk individuals6.

Understanding Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting alternates between designated periods of eating and fasting. This dietary approach has become popular due to its health advantages, such as promoting weight loss and enhancing metabolic health7.

Cardiovascular Disease And Diet

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide8. Diet plays a crucial role in its prevention and management, with the Mediterranean diet and intermittent fasting showing promising results.

According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, dietary patterns rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease9.

Health Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet offers numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, improved blood pressure, and better insulin sensitivity.

A study reported that adherence to a Mediterranean diet significantly reduces all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer and neurodegenerative diseases10.

The Mediterranean diet can promote weight loss by emphasizing nutrient-dense foods and healthy eating patterns, which help control appetite and reduce calorie intake.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants following a Mediterranean diet experienced significant weight loss compared to those on a low-fat diet11.

Combining Intermittent Fasting With A Mediterranean Diet For Heart Health

Pairing intermittent fasting with a Mediterranean diet can enhance the benefits of both, leading to optimal cardiovascular health.

A study published in Nutrition and Healthy Aging found that this combination could improve cardiovascular risk factors more effectively than either approach alone12.

The Role of Extra Virgin Olive

Extra virgin olive oil, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. It contributes to heart health and reduces inflammation.

Research indicates that the phenolic compounds in extra virgin olive oil can improve lipid profiles and reduce oxidative stress13.

The Pesco Mediterranean Diet

The Pesco Mediterranean diet includes fish and seafood as primary protein sources, providing omega-3 fatty acids that support heart health.

A review highlighted the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, including reduced risk of arrhythmias and lower triglyceride levels14,15.

Blood Pressure Management

The Mediterranean diet and intermittent fasting have been shown to lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A study on hypertension found that the Mediterranean diet significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure16.

At the same time, intermittent fasting can improve blood pressure control17.

Healthy Fats in the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet includes healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and fish, which benefit cardiovascular health.

A study found that these healthy fats can lower LDL cholesterol and improve overall lipid profiles18.

Reducing saturated fats and replacing them with healthy fats is a crucial component of the Mediterranean diet. It contributes to lower cholesterol levels and improved heart health.

A review in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology confirmed that reducing saturated fat intake can significantly lower LDL cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular risk19.

Tips For Successfully Combining The Mediterranean Diet And Intermittent Fasting

If you think that integrating intermittent fasting with a Mediterranean-style diet is a good fit for you, here are some excellent tips to help you get started and achieve your goals:

1. Make extra virgin olive oil your primary fat source.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) should be your primary dietary fat. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and healthy fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health and can help you feel full longer, making fasting periods more manageable.

This is because EVOO influences hunger hormones, helping to maintain satiety during calorie deficits20.

2. Include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your last meal before fasting.

Pack your last meal with hearty and healthy items like fruits, fiber-rich vegetables, and whole grains to avoid hunger during fasting. These foods will help sustain you through the initial calorie deficit.

Avoid processed foods that cause blood sugar spikes and leave you hungry shortly after eating. Instead, choose foods from the core groups of the Mediterranean diet.

3. Use salt-free seasonings during eating windows.

Excess sodium can lead to health problems such as headaches, dehydration, and high blood pressure21.

To minimize salt intake, use sodium-free seasonings and spice blends to flavor your food during eating periods.

4. Increase your intake of calcium-rich foods.

Calcium is crucial for many bodily functions, including blood clotting and nerve function.

The recommended daily calcium intake varies by age and gender, but most people should aim for around 1,000-1,200 mg daily22.

Excellent sources of calcium include dairy products, sardines, lentils, and leafy greens.

5. Focus on plant-based and seafood proteins.

The success of the Mediterranean diet relies heavily on the quality of food choices, especially protein sources. Opt for plants and seafood as your primary sources of lean protein.

This approach helps you avoid excessive consumption of red meat and fatty proteins like beef or pork, which can hinder weight loss and increase the risk of heart disease.

Final Thoughts

Combining intermittent fasting with a Mediterranean diet for heart health can bring you numerous benefits. You’ll experience improvements in your cardiovascular health, better manage your weight, and feel healthier.

By integrating intermittent fasting and a Mediterranean diet, you can leverage the strengths of both approaches to achieve optimal heart health and overall wellness. This combination of time-restricted eating and nutrient-dense foods provides a powerful strategy for promoting your heart health and preventing chronic diseases.

Additionally, adopting a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins can lead to better heart health, reduced blood pressure, and improved insulin sensitivity for you. Incorporating healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, focusing on plant-based and seafood proteins, and avoiding processed foods can further enhance the benefits of this combined approach for your well-being.


1 Kim, J. Y. (2021). Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome, 30(1), 20-31. https://doi.org/10.7570/jomes20065

2 Sánchez-Sánchez ML, García-Vigara A, Hidalgo-Mora JJ, García-Pérez MÁ, Tarín J, Cano A. Mediterranean diet and health: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and intervention trials. Maturitas. 2020 Jun;136:25-37. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2020.03.008. Epub 2020 Apr 11. PMID: 32386663.

3 Pant A, Chew DP, Mamas MA, Zaman S. Cardiovascular Disease and the Mediterranean Diet: Insights into Sex-Specific Responses. Nutrients. 2024 Feb 19;16(4):570. doi: 10.3390/nu16040570. PMID: 38398894; PMCID: PMC10893368.

4 Patterson RE, Laughlin GA, LaCroix AZ, Hartman SJ, Natarajan L, Senger CM, Martínez ME, Villaseñor A, Sears DD, Marinac CR, Gallo LC. Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Aug;115(8):1203-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018. Epub 2015 Apr 6. PMID: 25857868; PMCID: PMC4516560.

5 Naous E, Achkar A, Mitri J. Intermittent Fasting and Its Effects on Weight, Glycemia, Lipids, and Blood Pressure: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2023 Aug 21;15(16):3661. doi: 10.3390/nu15163661. PMID: 37630851; PMCID: PMC10459308.

6 Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Fiol M, Lapetra J, Lamuela-Raventos RM, Serra-Majem L, Pintó X, Basora J, Muñoz MA, Sorlí JV, Martínez JA, Fitó M, Gea A, Hernán MA, Martínez-González MA; PREDIMED Study Investigators. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts. N Engl J Med. 2018 Jun 21;378(25):e34. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1800389. Epub 2018 Jun 13. PMID: 29897866.

7 Patterson, R. E., Laughlin, G. A., Sears, D. D., LaCroix, A. Z., Marinac, C., Gallo, L. C., Hartman, S. J., Natarajan, L., Senger, C. M., Martínez, M. E., & Villaseñor, A. (2015). INTERMITTENT FASTING AND HUMAN METABOLIC HEALTH. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(8), 1203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018

8 Cesare, M. D., Perel, P., Taylor, S., Kabudula, C., Bixby, H., Gaziano, T. A., McGhie, D. V., Mwangi, J., Pervan, B., Narula, J., Pineiro, D., & Pinto, F. J. (2024). The Heart of the World. Global Heart, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.5334/gh.1288

9 Diab A, Dastmalchi LN, Gulati M, Michos ED. A Heart-Healthy Diet for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: Where Are We Now? Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2023 Apr 21;19:237-253. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S379874. PMID: 37113563; PMCID: PMC10128075.

10 Sofi F, Cesari F, Abbate R, Gensini GF, Casini A. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008 Sep 11;337:a1344. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a1344. PMID: 18786971; PMCID: PMC2533524.

11 Rueda-Galindo L, Zerón-Rugerio MF, Egea AJS, Serrancolí G, Izquierdo-Pulido M. A Mediterranean-Style Diet Plan Is Associated with Greater Effectiveness and Sustainability in Weight Loss in Patients with Obesity after Endoscopic Bariatric Therapy. Medicina (Kaunas). 2022 Jan 22;58(2):168. doi: 10.3390/medicina58020168. PMID: 35208491; PMCID: PMC8875593.

12 Tsai, C., Lee, C., Liu, C., Tseng, J., & Chien, L. (2020). Combined healthy lifestyle factors are more beneficial in reducing cardiovascular disease in younger adults: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Scientific Reports, 10. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75314-z

13 Derakhshandeh-Rishehri SM, Kazemi A, Shim SR, Lotfi M, Mohabati S, Nouri M, Faghih S. Effect of olive oil phenols on oxidative stress biomarkers: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Food Sci Nutr. 2023 Mar 13;11(5):2393-2402. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.3251. PMID: 37181304; PMCID: PMC10171518.

14 Khan SU, Lone AN, Khan MS, Virani SS, Blumenthal RS, Nasir K, Miller M, Michos ED, Ballantyne CM, Boden WE, Bhatt DL. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. EClinicalMedicine. 2021 Jul 8;38:100997. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.100997. PMID: 34505026; PMCID: PMC8413259.

15 Elagizi, A., Lavie, C. J., Marshall, K., & Milani, R. V. (2021). An Update on Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Health. Nutrients, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010204

16 De Pergola G, D’Alessandro A. Influence of Mediterranean Diet on Blood Pressure. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 7;10(11):1700. doi: 10.3390/nu10111700. PMID: 30405063; PMCID: PMC6266047.

17 Yuan, X., Wang, J., Yang, S., Gao, M., Cao, L., Li, X., Hong, D., Tian, S., & Sun, C. (2022). Effect of Intermittent Fasting Diet on Glucose and Lipid Metabolism and Insulin Resistance in Patients with Impaired Glucose and Lipid Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/6999907

18 Chinwong, S., Chinwong, D., & Mangklabruks, A. (2017). Daily Consumption of Virgin Coconut Oil Increases High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels in Healthy Volunteers: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/7251562

19 Hooper L, Martin N, Jimoh OF, Kirk C, Foster E, Abdelhamid AS. Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Aug 21;8(8):CD011737. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011737.pub3. PMID: 32827219; PMCID: PMC8092457.

20 Prater, M., Scheurell, A. R., Paton, C. M., & Cooper, J. A. (2023). Hunger and satiety responses to diets enriched with cottonseed oil vs. Olive oil. Physiology & Behavior, 259, 114041. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2022.114041

21 Veniamakis, E., Kaplanis, G., Voulgaris, P., & Nikolaidis, P. T. (2022). Effects of Sodium Intake on Health and Performance in Endurance and Ultra-Endurance Sports. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19063651

22 Office of Dietary Supplements – Calcium. (n.d.). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/


More Posts...