Mediterranean in Your Kitchen
There’s no denying that Mediterranean cuisine's rise in popularity is NOT a fad. Besides the abundant ingredients and flavor, there is quite a bit of research behind the health benefits of the foods and plant-focused eating patterns from this area of the world.
Want a healthier heart, better memory, immunity boost, lower cancer risk and better blood sugar and insulin levels - eat from the Mediterranean - which includes an active lifestyle and shared social meals!
Not sure where to start with Mediterranean cuisine? Many of the foods you may already have on hand (or can easily find at the grocery store): fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and olive oil top the list of must-haves. Seafood, yogurt, cheese and poultry fall next in line to incorporate in moderate amounts and, lastly, smaller portions of red meat (lean and unprocessed) and sweets. We can't forget the glass of red wine - in moderation of course.
4 EASY MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS TO ADD TO YOUR NEXT MEAL:
Besides its strong scent and notable flavor, garlic is full of powerful antioxidants that can support our health. An ancient food that’s been used to treat many ailments (from coughs to arthritis to toothaches and infections), garlic is now common to eat for its anti-microbial and anti-tumor properties as well as preventing and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Nutrition Tip: Let garlic rest for 10 minutes after chopping to fully activate it’s antioxidant power and get the best health benefits.
Try adding fresh minced garlic to marinades or sautéing with olive oil and veggies for an easy side dish.
Great for protein, fiber and unsaturated fat, eating a variety of unsalted nuts can provide a boost of nutrients like Vitamin E (powerful antioxidant), Manganese (good for metabolism and bone health) and Copper (needed for healthy skin, bones and nervous system). Just remember that even though nuts are full of nutrients, they are also high in calories so keep portion sizes in check (1/2 - 1 oz). Research shows that swapping monounsaturated fats (like those found in nuts) for saturated fat (like butter) can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and maintain HDL (good) cholesterol.
Nut Alternatives: for those with allergies, try substituting seeds like sesame, sunflower or pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to get an extra nutrient boost.
03 GARBANZO BEANS
It's no secret we love these little nutrition powerhouses. They are mild, versatile and a staple in plant-based recipes. From hummus to curries to salads and tacos, garbanzo beans add a filling way to get a healthful dose of protein, fiber and antioxidants. Swapping plant-based proteins (like these blonde beauties) for meat can help lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Nutrition Tip: Canned beans can be just as healthy as dry beans you boil from scratch. Just be sure to drain and rinse them well to lower the sodium
04 EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
High in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants that can help support a healthy heart and immune system. To get the most nutrients, choose fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) - made from fresh olives and minimally processed to protect its polyphenols (aka antioxidants found in plants).
Nutrition Tip: select oils that have a harvest date to ensure freshness and store in a cool dark place in your kitchen to preserve the nutrients. Keep in mind that 1 Tbsp of EVOO has about 120 calories, so a little goes a long way.
READY TO GET COOKING?
Here are 4 Easy Mediterranean Recipes from Registered Dietitian Nutritionists around the country: