Why do we hear so much about the Mediterranean diet? Doctors often suggest to their patients that they get on the Mediterranean diet to improve their heart health. An eight-year, multi-center study evaluating various diets found that the Mediterranean-style of eating resulted in a 30 percent reduction in heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths, a 40 percent reduction in type 2 diabetes, and a 62 percent reduction in breast cancer! This is why so many doctors are embracing the Mediterranean diet.
What foods are featured in a Mediterranean diet that might protect you from chronic diseases?
- Healthy fats:
- Extra-virgin olive oil for just about everything - cooking, baking, in dressings
- Olives, especially Kalamata, to add to dishes and for flavoring
- Nuts, including almonds, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts
- Avocadoes and avocado oil
- Unrefined wheat for breads, couscous and pasta
- Sourdough breads
- Dandelion, kale, spinach, mustard, etc.
- Chickpeas or garbanzo beans
- Garlic, fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs
There is no secret to the Mediterranean diet, but a prominent feature is that foods and meals are made from scratch, and the family eats together in a leisurely fashion. Time is taken to prepare the meal, and then to enjoy it with good conversation.
There is meat served but only a few times a week, so most meals are plant-based but very flavorful because of the olive oil, herbs, capers, lemon juice, and garlic so generously used.
How could your meals become more Mediterranean-style?
Lunch might be homemade hummus made with chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic, and crusty sourdough bread or a hearty cannellini bean soup with seasonal salad.
Dinner might be a seasonal vegetable stew with a kale salad or pasta with marinara sauce and layered eggplant-squash casserole.