Jennifer Anthony, RD, LD

May 25th, 2018

Following a Mediterranean diet may help to reduce your risk of heart disease or help manage it as well as reduce your risk for cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The Mediterranean diet comes from countries that border the Mediterranean Sea including Greece and France and some studies have shown to help lower our “lousy” LDL cholesterol. The heart-healthy eating plan emphasizes the following:

Fruits and vegetables: By adding more fruits and vegetables into your eating plan, you not only increase the variety and color, but you also increase your fiber, vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants which help to protect your heart and reduce your risk of cancer.

Olive oil: Due to its heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, choose olive oil more often instead of butter for dipping bread or cooking. Be sure to stick to the serving size on the nutrition facts label.

Whole grains: By choosing whole grains most often, we can increase our fiber intake as well as feel satiated or fuller longer. Look for the word “whole” when purchasing flour, tortillas, rice, crackers, and breads.

Nuts and seeds: We can add nuts and seeds to our eating plan as a snack or include them in our cooking by adding them to oatmeal, cereal, quick breads or muffins and on salads. Nuts and seeds also add fiber and heart-healthy fats. Choose unsalted or raw almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and pecans. Try chia seeds, sunflower seeds or ground flaxseed.

Fish: The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fish and poultry consumption most often and very little red meat consumption. Fish provides heart-healthy omega 3’s and can be prepared by baking and grilling instead of breading and frying. Choose fattier fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna and use lemon and a little bit of olive oil to prepare. Eat fish two times per week and limit red meat to one time per month.

Herbs and spices: Be creative with your cooking by trying different herbs and spices like turmeric, cumin, thyme, oregano, red or black pepper, garlic, and Mrs. Dash spice blends instead of salt. You can create your own spice blends as well as use vinegar, lemon or lime juice to flavor food.

Red wine: the Mediterranean diet also includes a small amount of red wine about 5 oz. per day for women and 10 oz. per day for men due to the health benefits of resveratrol. Overconsumption of alcohol can have negative effects on our health so it’s best that if you do not currently drink to talk to your practitioner first. Another alternative to red wine or grape juice which can be high in sugar is consuming red grapes.

Check out the recipe below for a traditional Greek salad and add it to your Memorial Day weekend menu!

Traditional Greek Salad

From The Mediterranean Dish web site at https://www.themediterraneandish.com/traditional-greek-salad-recipe/

Ingredients:

4 Medium juicy tomatoes, preferably organic tomatoes

1 Cucumber, or 3/4 English (hot house) cucumber preferred, partially peeled making a striped pattern

1 green bell pepper, cored   

1 medium red onion

Greek pitted Kalamata olives

Salt, a pinch

4 tbsp. quality extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

8 oz. of creamy Greek feta cheese in blocks (do not crumble)

1/2 tbsp. quality dried oregano

Instructions:

  1. Cut the tomatoes into wedges or large chunks
  2. Cut the partially peeled cucumber in half length-wise, then slice into thick halves (at least 1/2″ in thickness)
  3. Thinly slice the bell pepper into rings.
  4. Cut the red onion in half and thinly slice into half-moons.
  5. Place everything in a large salad dish. Add a handful of the pitted Kalamata olives.
  6. Season very lightly with salt (just a pinch) or omit the salt for heart health. Pour the olive oil and red wine vinegar.
  7. Give everything a very gentle toss to mix; do NOT over mix, this salad is not meant to be handled too much.
  8. Add the feta blocks on top and sprinkle the dried oregano.
  9. Serve with crusty whole grain bread!
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