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    Mayo Clinic Minute: Health benefits of a Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has long been billed as a heart-friendly plan to improve health and prevent disease. A new study published in JAMA Network Open says the Mediterranean diet can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by 25 percent.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Donald Hensrud, director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, talks about the staples and subtleties that make up the Mediterranean diet.

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"The Mediterranean diet is actually a combination of diets that have certain common features," says Dr. Hensrud.

Olive oil is one of them. It's a healthier alternative to butter. Herbs and spices replace salt as seasoning. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and even some red wine.

"There's not a lot of processed food," says Dr. Hensrud. "Meat is a condiment, rather than a staple."

Fish and poultry could be served a couple times a week, but red meat might only be served a couple times a month. And in this diet, how you eat is as key as what you eat.

"In the Mediterranean region, traditionally people have eaten together as a family, and that's an important part," says Dr. Hensrud.

Exercising between these meals is, too.

"So it can have a powerful effect on health," he says.

But, according to Dr. Hensrud, here's the rub: "Too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing."

You still need to watch your total calories — even if they are the healthier ones that come from a Mediterranean meal.