The Mediterranean diet was named the healthiest diet by US News & World Report for the sixth year in a row.
For nutrition experts like Melissa Keaney, MD, Hartford HealthCare, this is hardly a surprise.
“The Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart failure, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Evidence also suggests that it may improve gut health and cognitive function,” she notes.
But why is the Mediterranean style of eating so good?
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Briefly about the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean Diet, named after a region in the world where people have blended healthy, more natural foods, promotes dishes rich in:
“The diet also encourages moderate to high consumption of fish and seafood and low consumption of red meat and dairy products,” Keaney explains. “The food is more plant-based and fresher, and the lifestyle includes physical activity, both planned exercise and activities such as walking, climbing stairs, housework and gardening.”
No calorie counting required
One of the beauties of the Mediterranean diet, she says, is that it celebrates food, only healthier.
“When a diet is very restrictive or excludes food groups, that’s a red flag! It doesn’t exclude major food groups and doesn’t require calorie or macronutrient counting,” she says, adding, “It’s not an all-or-nothing approach. You can include Mediterranean diet foods in your current diet.”
To make your diet more Mediterranean, Kini suggests:
- Add a handful of almonds or walnuts as a snack.
- Make a salad dressing with olive oil, lemon and fresh black pepper.
- Eat fish twice a week.
- Try new grains like couscous, barley, or farro.
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Many ways to customize it
According to Keaney, the Mediterranean diet can be tailored to your ethnicity or personal choice.
“This diet, for example, encourages eating chickpeas while lentils are on the rise in Southeast Asia,” she says, noting that there has been much more research into the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. “In Latin America, dishes are made with black beans and pinto beans. They are all nutritious.”
Strive to create nutrient-balanced plates no matter what food you enjoy. These include: carbohydrates needed for energy; fat; protein; and fiber.
Ready to try? Try this recipe.
Kini shared this recipe to help you taste Mediterranean cuisine.
Orzo salad with roasted chickpeas
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 ½ cups orzo
- 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas (chickpea beans), drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups red tomatoes, cut in half
- 2 mini cucumbers, chopped
- 1 glass of arugula
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
- ¾ cup red wine vinaigrette, recipe below
- garlic powder
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Feta or Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Set the oven to 425 degrees. Place chickpeas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, toss with garlic powder and black pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once, until the chickpeas are crispy. For a quick salad, you can skip this step.
- Pour the broth into a large saucepan. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in orzo.
- Cover partially and cook until the orzo is tender, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Drain the orzo and transfer to a large wide bowl. Stir until it cools down a bit.
- When cool, toss orzo with chickpeas, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, arugula, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette (see recipe below) to coat. Add cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature.
Red wine vinaigrette
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons agave or honey
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, agave/honey and pepper.
The recipe is based on the orzo pasta salad by Giada De Laurentiis.