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The Three Most Important Ingredients in a Mediterranean Diet

Vegetables, tomatoes, and a great extra virgin olive oil are the secret to a healthy Mediterranean diet.Regardless of what anyone tells you, regardless of what you read or hear, when it comes to nutrition, a healthy diet, and good health there are no silver bullets or shortcuts. The key to a healthy diet is combining nutritious foods and ingredients that, when consumed together, provide the health and nutrition benefits you seek. Such is the Mediterranean diet, known throughout the world for its flavorful and healthful effects with regard to reducing risks associated with a myriad of chronic diseases and unhealthy conditions.The secret behind this well-deserved reputation is the simple combination of three ingredients that work together to bring all the health (and flavor) advantages of the diet to its consumer: extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes and vegetables.

Recent research studies presented at the National Academy of Sciences and published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that when vegetables and common salad ingredients are consumed with  a “good” fat such as extra virgin olive oil (Little Angel, of course), the body enjoys an increased absorption of carotenoids as well as many important vitamins. The important thing to know about this scientific sounding stuff is that carotenoids act as antioxidants which is a good thing because antioxidants serve to reduce oxidative stress which is definitely a bad thing! Oxidative stress contributes to a wide variety of diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.

These studies have shown that when tomatoes are combined with a high quality olive oil and heated, the combination increases the absorption of lycopene – a carotenoid commonly found in tomatoes. This combination of olive oil, tomatoes, and herbs makes vegetables much easier to consume and digest. And, since olive oil, tomatoes and vegetables are all foods rich in antioxidants, the benefits start flowing. Although each of these ingredients have high nutritional value in their own right, it seems that when combined, their individual values are multiplied.

Now for the best news, These three ingredients are the basis for an incredible number of Mediterranean diet vegetable dishes such as eggplant parmigiana (Italian), fassolakia lathera (Greek, and my favorite), and sofrito sauce (Spanish) which a main ingredient for paella. In other words: a simple tomato sauce made with a high quality Greek extra virgin olive oil like Little Angel Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

How can you lose? Simple ingredients you like anyway combine to create a delicious sauce that promotes increased consumption of vegetables in your diet by making them taste better and their interaction multiplies the value of what you were going to get from them individually. Yet another one of the myriad of extra virgin olive oil uses that will contribute to a healthy diet menu and, therefore, a healthy lifestyle.

The best part is that this sauce can be made in advance and used whenever you like. Make it fresh, can it, freeze it, whatever. Add the sauce to any favorite (or not so favorite) vegetable dish suddenly positions vegetables as a main course, which means that in just one meal we can consume 2-4 servings of vegetables in one sitting. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has reported that Americans are not eating enough vegetables so adding just two vegetable main courses each week can make a big difference in our health and add a little spice and variety to our meal planning.

Think about how this can benefit meal planning beyond your table. Everything from school lunches to hospital food can greatly benefit from a Mediterranean style preparation of vegetables. No more trying to increase vegetable consumption in children through raw vegetables and salads, cooked vegetables with an antioxidant rich tomato sauce will encourage a much higher intake. Mediterranean vegetable casseroles often taste better the next day and thus serve to minimize food waste.

So, you want a Mediterranean diet food list? Here’s the deal: tomatoes, vegetables, and Little Angel Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Read more about the Mediterranean diet here.

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