THE FUSS ABOUT THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET The Mediterranean Diet is nothing new, yet it has been all over the Internet lately. And when a trend like that resurfaces overnight, I can’t help but wonder if it really is worth the attention.
According to the Cardiovascular Institute of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center…it is. “The Mediterranean Diet is a very healthy eating style that has been shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors—even for patients with established heart disorders,” stated the BIDMC on its website.
WHAT IS THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET? Because this is not a new diet, there are more than one version of the Mediterranean Diet depending on the country, regions within the country, and culture that might influence it.
But according to the American Heart Association, the Mediterranean Diet has the main following components:
• High consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, and other whole grain cereals, potatoes, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds. • Extra virgin olive oil is an important monounsaturated fat source. • Low to moderate consumption of dairy products, fish, eggs, poultry, and red wine. • Very little red meat.
Read Related: Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN & HOW DOES IT WORK? As you see, the Med-Diet is a balanced and healthy combination of carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fats: there’s no refined sugar and/or carbs, and no processed foods. The diet highlights the consumption of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and portions are more controlled. In a nutshell: • Lean proteins high in fatty acids (salmon, herring, sardines, trout) high in Omega-3s which helps to moderate blood pressure, decrease blood clotting, and improve the health of your blood vessels, according to AHA. •Lots of fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) which translates into plenty of phytonutrients and fiber. •No saturated fats; only healthy monounsaturated fats from extra virgin olive oil and nuts. •And yes, some wine please. Science has linked the benefits of having a glass of red wine a day with your meal. Not only because it has antioxidant properties, but because it may lower heart disease as well.
ADDING MORE MEDITERRANEAN TO YOUR DIET Though healthy diets are good for our overall wellbeing, heart and health, it is worth noting that diets are only one facet of a lifestyle—exercise, spending time with friends and family, taking time to slow down, unwind and connect, are as important as what we eat.
And yet for some, the Med-diet is how our grandparents used to eat, and for others, it may sound like a less familiar concept. Adding some Mediterranean flavors to your diet doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, with just a few tweaks here and there you will feel like you are living la dolce vita. Here’s how:
• Use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or margarine. • Minimize or eliminate red meat; eat fish or poultry. • Incorporate more legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds. • Use fresh herbs and spices. • Avoid and/or eliminate refined sugars, trans and saturated fats, and processed foods. • Increase (no limit) the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables. • If your doctor agrees, have one glass of red wine with dinner. • Exercise daily. No, you don’t need to go crazy with it, just 20-30 minutes walk daily may do the trick. • Gather with your loved ones, have fun, read a good book, walk barefoot, enjoy some time outdoors, take some time off from your mobile and social media, take time to disconnect and connect within.
And like Mark Bittman, columnist for The New York Times Dining section, said in regards to the Mediterranean Diet: “This is hardly a sacrifice. Think about a frittata, a pasta dish with more vegetables, simply prepared fish and a reliance on legumes.”
BAKED SALMON WITH TOMATO-OLIVE TAPENADE Serves: 4
Ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil 1 pound fresh salmon fillet Juice of ½ lemon Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (or merkén, Peruvian smoked pepper flakes) 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved ¼ cup purple olives, pitted, chopped Handful of pine nuts, chopped or crushed 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped 1½ tsp. fresh oregano, chopped Splash of Italian balsamic vinegar
Instructions: 1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. 2. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat it evenly with extra virgin olive oil. Place salmon on prepared sheet. 3. Rub fish with olive oil, sprinkle with lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. 4. Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on desired cooked-ness. (Always remove fish before it’s cooked, and allow it to sit for a few minutes before serving.) 5. Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, shallot and garlic, and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about a 30 seconds to a minute. 6. Add cherry tomatoes, stir, and cook until soft, about 1-2 minutes. Add olives, stir to combine and cook for less than a minute. Add herbs, combine; add balsamic vinegar, stir to combine. Taste, adjust seasoning. 7. Remove from heat. Spoon tapenade over fish. Serve over whole grain pasta or lentils.
Kitchen Notes: You may add capers, and use cilantro instead of parsley, or add it to the tapenade.