Spain, Italy, Greece. Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon. Welcome to the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the world’s healthiest. People who follow this diet generally live long lives. They are less prone to developing conditions such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Following a Mediterranean diet has been associated with better cognitive function and reduced depressive symptoms in patients to the point of remission.
Known as “sunshine cuisine”, the Mediterranean diet is high in fibre and antioxidants. It includes foods native to countries that surround the Mediterranean sea. One such food is the mighty olive.
The Mediterranean climate is ideal for olive trees. For centuries, people from this region have cooked with olive oil. However, it isn’t just the olive oil that makes this diet so special, it’s the overall combination of foods from the region that make it a healthy way to eat.
A typical Mediterranean diet includes olives and extra-virgin olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and brown rice, beans, legumes and tree-nuts, fish and seafood, some cheese and yoghurt, small portions of lean red meat and some poultry. And meals are frequently washed down with a glass or two of red wine.
Some people think that consuming nuts and extra-virgin olive oil can cause weight gain. This isn’t true. Olive oil and nuts are low in saturated fat but high in “healthy fats” known as mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Your body is equipped to process and metabolize these kinds of healthy fats. So, eating them in moderation and with other foods, as in the Mediterranean way of eating, will not make you gain weight.
According to studies, the Mediterranean diet is a better option than low-fat diets for losing weight and preventing chronic diseases. In addition, olive oil and nuts are high in plant-based nutrients known as polyphenols or antioxidants with disease-fighting properties.
To give you a small taste of the Mediterranean diet, here’s an olive dip recipe, as seen in the photo above. This savoury dip was discovered many years ago by my husband’s aunt Mary who passed on the recipe to me and the entire family. It’s become an all time favourite among family and friends. It can be served as a snack or an appetizer with raw vegetables and/or whole grain crisps or pita bread. You and your guests will love it!
The best olive dip. Ever!
- ½ cup marinated artichoke hearts in jar, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup marinated hot peppers in jar, drained and rinsed (or I sometimes use 1 chipotle pepper)
- ½ cup pitted black -or- purple kalamata olives, drained and rinsed
Mix Part A in food processor until ingredients are finely chopped and blended together. Transfer to a bowl.
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves
- 1 large sweet red bell pepper, chopped in chunks
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (tbsp) lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil -or- 3 to 4 fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
Mix Part B in food processor until ingredients are finely chopped and blended together. Pour into the bowl and handmix Part B ingredients with Part A. Season with sea salt, ground pepper and dry Italian herbs to taste. Cover and chill in fridge until ready to serve.