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Mediterranean diet: Heart-healthy recipes featuring olive oil

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Heart-healthy olive oil

Since the 1960s, medical experts have extolled the benefits of the Mediterranean diet - a mostly plant-based diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and unsaturated fats derived primarily through olive oil and fatty fish. The traditional Mediterranean diet delivers as much as 40 percent of the total daily calories from fat - an irony to many fat-fearing Americans, since their Mediterranean peers are experiencing a significantly lower incidence of heart disease.

Bruschetta

Healthy fats are heart-healthy

The key to the lowered risk of heart disease for those following the Meditteranean diet lies in the typeof fat they consume. In addition to being based on locally grown, minimally processed foods, the Mediterranean diet features olive oil - a monounsaturated fat - as a main source of fat.

Found predominantly in olives and olive oil, monounsaturated fat is a type of fat that is considered heart-healthy – unlike saturated and trans fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.

And as an added health bonus, olives and olive oil are also a good source of antioxidants, which have been associated with both a lowered risk of heart disease andcancer.

Easy ways to incorporate more olive oil into your day

Olive oil is a versatile fat that can be used in many cooking applications. Use it to make vinaigrettes or drizzle over lightly cooked vegetables. Rub it on meats and seafood before roasting. Dip your bread in olive oil instead of slathering it with butter. Use olive oil to pan saute vegetables and meats. Drizzle olive oil over pasta and toss with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly sliced basil leaves. Use olive oil in your baked goods instead of butter or other fats.

Olive oil can easily be incorporated into savory dishes as well as desserts. If you've never cooked with olive oil, other than to make a salad dressing or for a saute, you will be pleasantly surprised how delicious a diet rich in olive oil can be.

Heart-healthy recipes featuring heart-healthy olive oil

Here are three easy recipes – courtesy of Agrovim SA, exporters of fine Greek Iliada olive oil and other authentic products – highlighting the versatility of heart-healthy olive oil.

Garlic Stuffed Olive and Tomato Bruschetta

Serves 8 to 10

Simple and succulent for an appetizer, this bruschetta melds the distinctive flavors of heart-healthy ingredients – olives, olive oil, garlic and leafy greens. Spread on a crispy toast, your palate will delight in the tantalizing tastes and textures.

Ingredients:
1 small loaf Ciabatta bread, sliced into 2-inch thick pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 jar garlic-stuffed olives, roughly chopped
2 cups chopped, seeded fresh vine ripe tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch arugula, washed, patted dry
A few leaves fresh basil, ripped

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush bread with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast until light golden around the edges, about 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by mixing together olives, tomatoes, sea salt and pepper. Toss with arugula right before serving.

3. To serve, lay warm toasts on a plate and spread topping on toasts. Garnish with basil.

Roasted Pumpkin and Feta Salad

Serves 4

High in antioxidants, rich in color, fabulous in flavor, you'll love sitting down to this tasty salad. Pair with a glass of wine and you've got yourself one heart-healthy meal.

Ingredients:
4 cups peeled, sliced sugar pumpkin (or winter squash)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon warmed honey
5 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 bag mixed salad greens
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat pumpkin with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together vinaigrette, garlic and honey. Toss with feta. Add pumpkin and greens and toss lightly to coat. Pile onto plates and garnish with oregano and almonds.

Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse

Serves 6 to 8

Dark chocolate and olive oil – two heart-healthy ingredients that aren't typically associated together in the same meal – come together delectably in this indulgent dessert. The addition of fresh berries only adds to this treat's antioxidant power.

Ingredients:
7 ounces high quality dark chocolate (no less than 60 percent cocoa solids)
3 free range organic eggs, separated
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh berries

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure bowl doesn't touch water or chocolate will seize). Stir until smooth then set aside to cool slightly.

2. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat until frothy. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until a shiny meringue texture is formed with semi-firm peaks. In another bowl, beat egg yolks with the remaining sugar until pale and thick.

3. Stir in the coffee and brandy then gently fold in olive oil and melted chocolate. Gently fold in egg whites. Pour into wine glasses or ramekins and refrigerate overnight or until set. Serve with berries, if desired.

More heart-healthy tips and recipes featuring olive oil


The Anticancer Diet
Heart-healthy Greek recipes and Greek diet tips
Mouthwatering Mediterranean meals
Get more fat in your diet
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

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