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Go Greek to beat cancer

The Mediterranean diet, which borrows the best habits of our friends living on the faraway sea, has helped many people around the world drop pounds, protect their hearts and cut their diabetes risk. Now, the latest good news is that the Mediterranean diet may help keep cancer at bay, too.

A recent study followed more than 25,000 Greeks for nearly eight years and found that those who most closely adhered to the diet were less likely to develop any kind of cancer. In fact, a simple change like eating lots more veggies and reaching for olive oil over butter lowered the risk by a whopping 12 percent. It appears that, when eaten together as part of a nutritious diet, the antioxidant properties of the individual foods conspire to keep you healthy. Here’s how you can live life Mediterranean-style:

Emphasize these foods

  • Fruits and vegetables. Aim for seven to 10 servings a day, in a variety of colors. Think green peppers, purple eggplant and red tomatoes.
  • Whole grains. Whether it’s sandwich bread or rice, opt for the whole-grain version instead of the bleached-out stuff. It’ll fill your belly faster and provide more nutrients.
  • Healthy oils. Say yes to healthy unsaturated fats and pass on bad-for-you saturated varieties. Whether you’re looking for something to spread on your bread or a tasty salad topper, opt for extra-virgin olive oil, which is rich in good-for-you monounsaturated fat.

Eat these foods in moderation

  • Fish. Have baked, broiled or grilled fish once or twice a week. Salmon, trout, mackerel, water-packed tuna and herring all contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Nuts. Grab a handful of polyunsaturated-fat-packed Brazil nuts, almonds, pecans and walnuts for a filling mid-afternoon snack.

Avoid these

  • Red meat and pork. The saturated fat in these meats is bad news. You’re better off eating meals with chicken, fish and veggies.
  • Full-fat dairy. Choose skim, fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Trans fat. Skip the butter tub and processed foods containing this unhealthy fat; walk away if “hydro-genated” appears in the ingredients list—even if the label says “no trans fat” (manufacturers can make that claim if products contain less than 0.5 grams a serving).