Heart-Healthy Mediterranean Favorites

When I imagine my ideal dinner, I think of fresh seafood, seasonal vegetables, artisan cheese, and a dry, earthy red wine. So when scientists concluded that the Mediterranean diet — in which these foods are prevalent — is healthy, I raised my glass and savored my Manchego cheese and Marcona almonds with gusto.

Basics of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet revolves around fresh produce, seafood, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, and olive oil. It also includes red wine and limited portions of meat and strong cheeses made from sheep and goat’s milk.

Specific regions in the Mediterranean have unique features that confer additional health benefits. For example, Sardinia made the grade in Dan Buettner’s bestselling book Blue Zones, Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. The island’s cuisine celebrates Pecorino, a cheese made from sheep’s milk, and Cannanau, a red wine with three times the normal level of antioxidants.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet, particularly when it includes extra virgin olive oil, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2013 study* published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Numerous other studies confirm this observation, citing the diet’s anti-inflammatory properties as responsible for this effect. A similar study** published in The Journal of Nutrition found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower waist circumference.

A Mediterranean Menu

  • Wild Arugula with Goat Cheese and Lemon Vinaigrette recipe

    Wild Arugula with Goat Cheese and Lemon Vinaigrette

    Wild greens are a staple in the Mediterranean Diet, particularly in Ikaria, Greece. Pair wild arugula with goat cheese, grape tomatoes, and a vinaigrette made from fresh herbs, lemon juice, and of course, extra virgin olive oil.

    Recipe: Wild Arugula with Goat Cheese and Lemon Vinaigrette

  • Tuscan Kale and Fava Bean Soup with Roasted Garlic and Shaved Pecorino recipe
    Tuscan Kale and Fava Bean Soup with Roasted Garlic and Shaved Pecorino

    Mediterranean diets derive many of their carbohydrates from beans, vegetables, and whole grains. They’re delicious in this rustic soup paired with shaved Pecorino cheese and multigrain bread.

    Recipe: Tuscan Kale and Fava Bean Soup with Roasted Garlic and Shaved Pecorino

  • Halibut with Lemon, Capers, and Olive Oil recipe
    Halibut with Lemon, Capers, and Olive Oil

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommends Pacific halibut, and it’s delicious prepared simply with a splash of lemon juice, olive oil, and some briny capers.

    Recipe: Halibut with Lemon, Capers, and Olive Oil

Sources:
*Castañer O et al. “In vivo transcriptomic profile after a Mediterranean diet in high-cardiovascular risk patients: a randomized controlled trial”

**Romaguera D et al. “Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower abdominal adiposity in European men and women”

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