The people of Crete know how to eat!

- Re-introducing the Mediterranean Diet –

Pasta, pizza, and focaccia, right? These classics hailing from the Mediterranean have been happily incorporated into the American diet, yet the traditional Mediterranean diet is far from heavy on the simple carbohydrate foods represented here. What does it emphasize? Some of the same things that all healthy diets have in abundance: fresh vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins. But, digging a little deeper, this diet particularly emphasizes olive oil – not just any olive oil, but extra virgin olive oil. The diet also includes red wine, spices, slow-release carbohydrates, fish and other meats.

One of the wonderfully sustainable elements of the Mediterranean Diet is that it does not restrict good fat and it includes all naturally occurring fats – including saturated fat. What an excellent idea, say my taste buds! Fat makes food taste better, helps us use more of the nutrients in our vegetables, and it satisfies hunger longer. This is key to long term health and weight maintenance because it means that we’re not looking for our next quick fix of sugar and unrefined grains after eating a meal.

Getting back to the olive oil, if you start to develop an olive oil habit, using it to cook practically everything (as I do) it is well worth buying extra virgin olive oil because it is more likely to be particularly high in polyphenols: antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, and increase levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. HDL is the cholesterol you want more of and good, quality extra virgin olive oil can help you get there!

Key elements of the Mediterranean Diet include:

·      High intake of plants including vegetables, fruits, beans and other legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
·      High intake of extra virgin olive oil
·      Moderately high intake of fish
·      Moderate intake of cultured dairy (yogurt, kefir, cheese)
·      Moderate intake of meat, poultry, and eggs
·      Moderate wine, generally with meals

I love these two recipes from The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller, MD. 

Wine in the Afternoon

3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon quality red wine
Whole grain/whole wheat bread* for dipping 

Pour olive oil in a saucer. The quality of the oil really matters. Add red wine to the center. Drizzle with a pinch of salt. Dip bread in the mixture and enjoy.
Variation: Scoop on some mashed lentils and chopped tomatoes

Horta Omelet 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
2 cups chopped fresh greens (purslane, kale, swiss chard, spinach, carrot greens, beet greens, or a ix-remove tough stems before cooking)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta or other slightly salty sheep or goat cheese
3 or 4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons Kalamata olives, chopped (optional)
Salt to taste
1 lemon cut into wedges (optional)

Heat olive oil over medium het, add garlic, and stir until soft but not too brown. Add greens and stir until soft. Evenly distribute your greens on the bottom of the skillet and then sprinkle with the feta. Pour eggs over the top and cook until eggs are just as you like them. Top with olives and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt. Serve with lemon wedges.