A new study says that eating the Mediterranean way could have great benefits for heart health. What is this diet and what could it mean for your health?
The Mediterranean diet is really a lifestyle. It encourages eating healthy fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, beans and fish. Those who follow it eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. And they indulge in a glass of wine with dinner.
Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet isn’t new — it’s actually the lifestyle of folks in the Mediterranean region and has been for a long while.
“An abundance of greens, veggies and fresh fruit, coupled with healthy fats found in olives, nuts, seeds and fish, not only help to lower cholesterol and keep the heart healthy, but have amazing anti-aging benefits and contribute to longevity. It’s the foundation of every healthy diet,” according to registered holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos.
But new findings of a study show that this way of eating could have even greater benefits than anyone imagined. The study, published on the New England Journal of Medicine‘s website, found that the Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths. In fact, it could prevent 30 percent of them.
What is this Mediterranean diet?
This isn’t a diet that will lead to weight loss, but rather to a healthier body. It focuses on healthy fats, and those who follow it avoid things like red meat and processed foods.
“It is such an incredibly fresh diet — you know exactly what you are putting into your body. And the high level of monounsaturated fats means it’s heart-healthy,” since studies suggest these fats may help reduce risk of heart disease, says chef Nisa Burns of Kitchenability.com, author of Kitchenability 101: The College Student’s Guide to Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Food.
Indeed, natural foods are the cornerstone of Mediterranean eating. And this can really improve your health.
“The Mediterranean diet is a very simple way of eating composed of the most natural and freshest of foods. Nothing processed, nothing refined,” says Kotsopoulos.
Burns and Kotsopoulos shared a few favorite Mediterranean diet recipes.
Branzino with tomato and black kalamata olives
Recipe courtesy of Peggy Kotsopoulos, host of Peggy K’s Kitchen Cures on Veria Living and author of Kitchen Cures
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 (5-ounce) branzino fillets
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Heat the oil in a large skillet with a lid. Whack the garlic cloves, peel and mince them, and add them to the skillet. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, whack the olives, pit them and roughly chop. Add olives to the sauce, along with capers and oregano; adjust the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Slip the fillets into the sauce; make sure the fillets are covered with the sauce. Place lid on skillet and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Serve on top of cooked quinoa or greens.
Roma tomatoes with feta and basil
Recipe courtesy of Chef Nisa Burns (of Kitchenability.com), author of Kitchenability 101: The College Student’s Guide to Easy, Healthy and Delicious Food
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
- 3 leaves fresh, finely chopped basil, or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the cores, creating four pieces.
- Fill each tomato with 1 tablespoon of cheese, making sure it’s fully packed in.
- Sprinkle a little bit of chopped basil on each.
- Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet or the tray of the toaster oven. They may roll to their sides, but if packed correctly, the cheese won’t fall out.
- Bake for 5 to 8 minutes. They are done when the tomato skins are slightly shriveled and the cheese tops are golden brown.