The Mediterranean Diet, which consists of high amounts of fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, and nuts and beans has long been touted as a diet that is "heart healthy." Now, a new Spanish study released this week, finds the diet may also protect against Peripheral Artery Disease, or "PAD."

"You gain the most protection from a Mediterranean diet because it does provide the lowest in saturated fat, highest in fiber, highest in omega-3, than any of the other comparable large-scale diets," explained Cleveland Clinic Registered Dietitian Julia Zumpano, who did not take part in the study.

University of Navarra researchers, in Pamplona, studied the effects the Mediterranean Diet had on peripheral artery disease with the help of nearly 7,500 people. Their average age was 67 and they all had at least 3 cardiovascular risk factors or type-2 diabetes mellitus.

The participants were split into three groups: a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean Diet supplemented with nuts, or counseling on a low-fat diet.

Results show both Mediterranean Diet groups lowering their risk of PAD compared to the group counseled about a low-fat diet. Researchers say the findings are consistent with the results of other studies. Zumpano is not surprised.

"If you're looking to prevent your risk of developing any type of heart disease the Mediterranean diet is the way to go and really starting to incorporate it slowly into your diet," she said.

Complete findings for this study are available in the online issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.