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One particularly healthful diet trend is the Mediterranean diet, so named after the tastes and habits of the people living around the Mediterranean Sea. People in Europe - especially those in Spain, Italy and Greece - generally are healthier than Americans. One often-cited reason is their diet, which, it turns out, is very high in salt.
Olives, for example, can only be consumed if they’re soaked in salty brine for weeks. Feta cheese is cured and stored in salt brine. Capers, anchovies, codfish and roe are all Mediterranean staples routinely packed in salt. Don’t forget all the famous salt-cured meats such as jamon serrano, prosciutto, salami and various sausages.
Olive oil is the anchor of the Mediterranean diet. No other natural oil has as much monounsaturated fat. When drizzled on salads and vegetables or grilled fish, it adds a pleasing aroma and texture. But olive oil by itself is somewhat bland and is always accompanied by liberal amounts of salt. Yet, the people of the Mediterranean, who enjoy all these foods, have the world’s best cardiovascular health. The diet is so healthy that the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute used it as a model in its famous DASH Study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which confirmed that the Mediterranean/DASH diet was healthier than the typical American diet and effectively reduced blood pressure.
Americans who believe they need to follow a low-salt diet may hesitate to explore the Mediterranean diet, or may try to reduce the amount of salt inherent in it. Before turning your back on the Mediterranean diet and all its proven health benefits, discuss the option with your doctor. The Mediterranean diet has proven its worth for centuries.
Number to Know
20: In the 1950s the average woman spent 20 hours a week preparing food. Today, women average just 4.4 hours per week.
North African Salad
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 pound box Israeli couscous (or any tiny pasta such as ziti)
3 cups chicken stock
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup dried chopped dates
1/4 cup slivered almonds or pistachios, toasted
In a medium saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for one minute. Add the couscous and toast until lightly browned, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Carefully add the stock, and the juice of 1 lemon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the couscous is tender, but still firm or al dente, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain the couscous.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the remaining olive oil, remaining lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper and let cool. Once the couscous is room temperature, add the fresh herbs, dried dates and almonds/pistachios. Toss well and serve.
True or false? Eating celery produces a negative calorie effect?
Answer at bottom of rail.
Wise to the Word
Caper: The pickled bud of a bush native to Asia and found throughout the Mediterranean. Capers are dried in the sun and pickled in a vinegar brine. Tangy green capers come packed in brine or coarse salt.
The Dish On...
“The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners,” by Rockridge Press
“The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners” is your complete guide to understanding this low-fat, nutritious diet for optimum health and weight loss with recipes for every meal from breakfasts to desserts plus meal plans. There’s also tips for success to ease your transition to a Mediterranean diet by presenting simple, attainable techniques that help you learn how to eat as much as what to eat.
Food Quiz answer
B: Digesting celery does not burn more calories that the vegetable contains, according to the Mayo Clinic, which investigated the claim in 2000.
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Food for Thought: Mediterranean diet trend offers healthy benefits
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