It’s National Nutrition Month so iChooseB blogger, Laura Brooks Bright, sat down with Brookwood Baptist’s resident dietitian, Kelly Bright (no relation), to talk about the health benefits of cuisine traditionally found somewhere other than the grand ol’ US of A. Every week this month we’ll highlight a different country and different recipes to spark your knowledge of different cuisines. Week 1 is all about Greece and the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet — long considered a beacon for healthy eating.
Studies on the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet began as early as the 1950s.* Its benefits were magnified when the Greek island of Crete was examined in 1960 and coronary heart disease was found to be a medical rarity.** So, what is a Mediterranean diet? Well, it’s the diet of those native to that area — a plant strong, mainly vegetarian-based diet with pasta in many forms (including those made from bulgar, rice, and chickpeas), low consumption of meat and dairy, healthy fats (think olive oil and avocado), fruit for dessert, and low amounts of red wine, preferably consumed with dinner. Studies showed the diet was supported by healthy lifestyle choices including regular physical activity, and meals prepared carefully, consumed slowly, and shared with loved ones.***
Kelly breaks it down and explains, “The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet may come from omega fatty acids, antioxidants, & flavonols, all of which are readily available in many foods traditionally part of the Mediterranean diet. Adherence to the diet may also slow and prevent metabolic syndrome thanks to the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil. These plant-based fats help increase your good cholesterol which in turn can help prevent heart disease.” Additional studies have shown that a plant-strong diet may also protect the kidneys and help maintain brain and neurological function which can help prevent stroke and cognitive decline.
Anxious to get started? Check out the Oldways Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid here for more information, try Kelly’s Mediterranean Greek salad recipe below, or take a small step and opt for vegetarian cooking one night a week at home. Small changes can make a big difference for a healthier lifestyle.
Mediterranean Greek Salad with Feta
1 1/2 tbsp Cucumbers, Peeled and Diced
1 1/2 tbsp Tomatoes, Fresh, Seeded and Chopped
1/2 tbsp Red Onion, Fresh and Diced
4 tsp Italian Parsley, Fresh and Chopped
1/4 tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Oregano, Fresh and Chopped
1/4 tsp Basil, Fresh and Chopped
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 cup Romaine Lettuce, Chopped
1 tbsp Feta Cheese
1/2 tsp Kalamata Olives, Pitted & Chopped
In a large bowl combine cucumber, tomato, onion, olives and parsley. In a smaller bowl, create the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, basil, salt & pepper. Toss tomato mixture with dressing and romaine lettuce and top with feta cheese to serve.
Join us later this month as we continue our food affair with the intercontinental cuisines of Italy, Spain and Morocco.
*Keys A. Mediterranean diet and public health: personal reflections. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995.
**Kafatos A., Kourmalis I, Vlachonikolis I, et al. Coronary-heart-disease risk-factor status of the Cretan urban population in the 1980s. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1991.
*** Willit W, Sacks F, Trichopoulou A, Drescher G, Ferro-Luzzi A, Helsing E, Trichopoulos D. Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995.