Is the Mediterranean diet the healthiest in the world? Let’s explore that and more through this article. First let me offset any biases I may have for this diet as I virtually grew up on this cuisine while in North Africa. Having seen firsthand the benefits associated with the olive oil, fresh fruits, protein rich legumes, fish and whole grains mixed with moderate amounts of wine, I have verily seen this diet to do wonders to one’s health benefits. The health benefits are obvious to many, such as low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and less likely to become obese. If your heart is your focus there is simply no better choice than a rich Mediterranean diet. Try and include the following in your Mediterranean diet to see the difference:
1. Broccoli Rabe : This is an herb from the cabbage family rich in Vitamin C, Potassium and fiber, as well as cancer fighting indoles and isothiocyanates. There are plenty of recipes for this vegetable and the most popular form is as in salads.
2. Chickpeas: High in soluble and insoluble fiber and phylates and phytosterols, they are lso rich in high quality protein and helps in managing diabetes and reduces heart disease risk.
3. Cous Cous: Traditionally pasta, bread and barley cous cous are the base of most Mediterranean diets and leaving the grains whole, lowers their glycemic index, so they are digested more slowly and produce gentler rises in glucose levels in addition to retaining their fiber, magnesium and antioxidant phytochemicals.
4. Eggplant: This is common as in baba ghanoush recipes famous through out the world and similar to the “Baingan ka Bharta” so common here in India and is a vegetable rich in fiber, potassium and cholorogenic acid.
5. Hazelnuts: Rich in heart friendly monounsaturated fats, protein, fiber, Vitamin E, folate and Calcium and Magnesium.
6. Olive Oil: Rich in monounsaturated fats in extra virgin types, it explains why the Mediterranean region has the world’s lowest heart disease rate.
7. Peppers: Fresh roasted or ground into complex sauces, the peppers contain Vitamin A, K and C, fiber, folate and beta carotene.
8. Shrimps and other sea foods: These contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids such as in Tuna, and also shrimps, squids and sea bass contain protein, niacin and selenium.
9. Tomatoes: Although Tomatoes weren’t even native to the Mediterranean region they’ve almost become synonymous with it, as they’re a staple in every cook’s larder. Rich in Abscorbic Acid and lycopene, a heart protective antioxidant.
In light of the abovementioned positive ingredients found in Mediterranean diets, I hope you are now convinced that it is one of the healthiest diets on the planet, however don’t take my word for it go ahead and try out a few succulent dishes from this region yourself and witness the difference yourself.
1 RECIPE ONE : HUMMUS
Original recipe makes 2.5 cups
1 clove garlic
1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, half the liquid reserved
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1. In a blender, chop the garlic. Pour garbanzo beans into blender, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish. Place lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic and salt in blender. Blend until creamy and well mixed.
2. Transfer the mixture to a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with pepper and pour olive oil over the top. Garnish with reserved garbanzo beans.
This delicacy is ready within fifteen minutes!
300ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
200g sliced chorizo
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp paprika
400g can drained chickpeas
425ml chicken stock
chopped parsley, to serve
Prepare couscous with vegetable stock, according to the packet’s instructions.
Heat olive oil in a large pan and stir fry the chorizo for 3-4 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside. Add the onion to the oil left in the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes until softened. Stir in the paprika, cook for 1 min, then tip in the chickpeas and the chicken stock. Return the chorizo to the pan and simmer for 2 mins. Spoon over the couscous and scatter with chopped parsley.
Baba Ghanouj is a delicious Mediterranean appetizer made with fire roasted eggplants and Tahini sauce.
3-5 medium eggplants (3 lbs)
5 table spoons Tahini paste
Juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 table spoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Roast the eggplants in the oven on medium heat, or on a BBQ grill for about 30 minutes.
While eggplants are still hot (not too hot so you don’t burn your hands), peel them and discard as much as possible of their seeds.
Strain the water from the eggplants by placing them on a colander for about 10 minutes. This step is important so you don’t get a liquid Baba Ghannouj.
Add eggplants and all ingredients in a food processor and let run for 2-3 minutes until you get a paste.
Place Baba Ghanouj paste into a serving plate, garnish with any/all of the following: olive oil, chopped parsley, sumac spice or chili powder, salted pickles…etc
Serve cold as an appetizer, with a side of Pita bread.
So, try out the best recipes from around the world!