Many Spanish restaurants are touting the heart-healthy benefits of their cuisine, citing experts who confirm that many foods can actually improve cardiovascular health. Walk into any Spanish restaurant, and the items on their menus reflect its many nutritious yet varied cultural flavors and combinations. Some actually refer to it as Mediterranean cuisine, as the country is situated along the Mediterranean basin.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, life expectancy in these countries are among the highest in the world and they have almost 50% fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease, attributing much of it to their healthy and nutritionally rich dieting patterns.

Heavily influenced by its history, Spanish cuisine is an eclectic mix of many different cultural foods and flavors. Being a country that was home to many cultures throughout history, as the different cultures settled in they left their own unique mark on its cuisine, and there are numerous examples: olives, olive oil and wine by the Greeks, Romans and Italians; almonds, honey and various spices influenced by the Arabic Moors, and meat and fish pies by the Celtics.

As Spain became the leader in exploring the New World, it brought home what for them was considered exotic foods from across the Atlantic, and integrated them into Spanish cuisine. Among those were tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, peppers, chocolate, and vanilla; foods that are today commonplace ingredients in everyday healthy cooking.

Many traditional Spanish dishes use nutritious and heart-healthy ingredients such as olive oil, garlic and beans; Chicken Fajitas and whole grain tortillas are good choices too. Guacamole, an avocado-based dip, is another heart-smart food on many Spanish menus. For those preparing food at home and looking to cook heart-friendly food, turn to classic Spanish and Mediterranean ingredients like vegetables, dry beans, whole grains and olive oil. These have been proven to reduce cholesterol, hypertension and prevent obesity and improve cardiovascular health.

In this fast-paced world, where it is not always possible to cook up a nutritious meal at home in time for lunch or dinner, thankfully there are some great Mediterranean and Spanish restaurants serving up meals that are both delicious and loaded with many health benefits.

Many Spanish restaurants offer tapas, bite-sized appetizers that can be chosen as a main dish. Filling up on fruits and vegetables by starting with a salad, Gazpacho soup, or even vegetarian options a la carte, are great ways to satisfy food cravings without overindulging on high calorie foods.

Eating a high fiber diet is another great strategy to achieving cardiovascular health among many other health benefits, and Spanish foods have plenty of options rich in valuable fiber. The trick is to power-up standard menu items by choosing whole grains when possible, piling on the black beans and loading up on vegetables.

Enjoying lunch or dinner out does not have to mean compromising on heart health. Quite the opposite; when choosing a good restaurant such as those serving Spanish cuisine, some gourmet food choices may actually help improve your health and well-being.

Bill Oliveira is the owner of Chateau of Spain Restaurant located in Newark, NJ. The restaurant is conveniently located close to the Prudential Center. This establishment offers a wide variety of food for dine-in, catering, and more.

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