As the new year begins, here comes the influx of resolutions geared towards healthy eating and weight loss, resulting in crowded gym parking lots, Google searches for detox diets, and the like. But long before the popularity of the lemon water and cayenne pepper detox or the cabbage soup diet came onto our radars, the Mediterranean Diet has long been in existence. The U.S News and World Report may have just listed the Mediterranean Diet at No. 1 of its Best Overall Diets, but those living along the Mediterranean coast have long known the benefits of their traditional cooking style. But you don’t have to travel to the Mediterranean to bring this delicious way of eating into your lifestyle- and into your bellies.
Not only can it help all those whose New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, the Mediterranean Diet has many other health benefits. Research has shown following the Mediterranean Diet can help lower the risk of heart disease. Its antioxidant properties are known to lower oxidized low-density lipoprotein LDL cholesterol, often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular mortality and overall mortality. Following the Mediterranean Diet has also been linked in the reduction of the incidence of stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other chronic diseases, as well as improving the gut microbiome.
Oldways, an organization whose mission is to preserve and promote traditional foods with a focus on nutrition, culture and sustainability, introduced the Traditional Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid back in 1993, as an easy-to-follow visual summarizing the staples of the Mediterranean Diet.
How can you start eating the heart-healthy ways of the Mediterranean? Here are some basic tips on you can incorporate into your life:
Increase your daily intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and peanuts and nuts, foods that are usually associated with antioxidants
Replace butter and margarine use with healthy monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oils
Flavor your food with fresh and/or dried herbs and spices
Eat fish and seafood, rich in omega-3s, at least twice a week
Yogurt, poultry, eggs, and cheese can be consumed weekly, as long as the portion sizes are reasonable
Eat red meat, pork, and sweets sparingly, or less often
Keep hydrated with water, especially if you drink wine (in moderation, of course)
Balela can be a tasty way to mix up the flavors of the Mediterranean. A salad of garbanzo beans, fresh herbs, and a tangy vinaigrette, balela is a great source of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also super easy to make, enjoyed after letting the flavors marinate for awhile.
More than just a diet plan, the Mediterranean Diet is really a lifestyle. While it highlights heart healthy foods at its core, it also encourages regular physical activity, as well as using the time cooking and eating as ways to connect with good friends and family. Eating healthy can be great for weight loss, but when integrated well into your life, it can yield greater and longer lasting results.
Here’s to starting 2019 off happy and healthfully!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours 20 minutes (includes leaching time)
Yields about 3 ½ servings
1 15.5oz can garbanzo beans, low sodium, leached for 2hrs
¼ cup fresh mint leaves chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
½ cup red onions, diced
1 cups grape tomatoes, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 T lemon juice
2 T white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sumac
Fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)
Drain can of garbanzo beans into bowl. Leach to decrease sodium by covering garbanzo beans with water. Soak for at least 2 hours.
As garbanzo beans are soaking in water, dice red onions and grape tomatoes. Chop mint and parsley. Put aside.
To prepare dressing, mince garlic. Whisk lemon juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic and sumac together in bowl. Add cayenne pepper, if desired. Add fresh ground pepper to taste.
When garbanzo beans are finished soaking, rinse with clean warm water.
Mix in chopped mint and parsley, diced red onions and grape tomatoes.
Drizzle dressing over mixed salad to coat.
Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve.
Per serving: Calories 231; Fat 2 g (Saturated 0 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium <448 mg; Carbohydrate 29 g; Fiber 9 g; Sugars 5 g; Protein 7 g