Boost Your Health the Mediterranean Way

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MinichHeadshotBy Dr. Deanna Minich

The word “Mediterranean” often evokes visions of a calm beach lined with palm trees, and a table full of seasoned olives, fresh-caught fish, succulent fruits, and a vibrant salad. This way of eating has been studied worldwide as a powerful contributor to longevity, brain health, and cardiac health. In fact, it’s one of the most well-studied diets on the planet!

Specifically, a recent study found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet had a 28% lower incidence of becoming cognitively impaired than those who didn’t eat the diet. For those who developed cognitive impairment, staying strictly on the Mediterranean diet helped reduce progression to Alzheimer’s disease by 48% compared with the group of people who did not follow the diet. Another study found that mortality was reduced by 50% in 70 to 90 year olds following the Mediterranean diet.

What makes the Mediterranean diet so healing? The staples of the diet – fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, healthy fats, whole grains, and spices – all have powerful health effects:

– Fruits and vegetables are chock-full of nutrients that our body needs to function optimally.  For example, orange fruits contain bioflavonoids that help keep the blood vessels open and prevent buildup or stagnation; leafy greens have chlorophyll, which acts as an antioxidant and promotes blood circulation; and indigo-hued berries boast resveratrol, an antioxidant that protects your brain and nerves and promotes neural plasticity. The benefits from fruits and vegetables go on and on!

– Fresh fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, herring, and sardines, are full of omega-3 fats. This oily nutrient helps with a myriad of bodily functions, including supporting brain function and joint health.

– Healthy fats, like fish oil, olive oil, or avocado oil, enable the body to work effectively on a cellular level, allowing nutrients to flow smoothly into cells while moving toxins out of the cell and the body. 

– Whole grains like quinoa, millet, and amaranth give your body the slow-burning energy it needs to get through the day without relying on quick fixes like caffeine. These grains are also high in B vitamins, which fuel the metabolic cycle in the body, among other things!

– Healing diets in the Mediterranean use an abundance of herbs and spices to restore the body and brain: oregano, dill, tarragon, ginger, black peppercorns, rosemary, and turmeric, to name only a few. Herbs and spices have a multitude of properties that cheer us up, pique our taste buds, and support our health, including anti- inflammatory, anti- cancer, and free- radical- quenching effects. 

Another often overlooked benefit of the Mediterranean diet is the eating style and environment. Often, meals in this area are relaxed events that take place over hours, usually in the company of family and friends. Compare this to the fast food culture in the U.S. and many other places – eating healthy food slowly and in company of your tribe can reduce inflammation, indigestion, and nutrient deprivation, as well as work wonders on your mood and emotions! 

Harness the power of the Mediterranean diet by incorporating whole foods full of healthy fats and phytonutrients into your daily meals. Carve out time during your busy day to savor your meal in the sun, with your family and friends. For more information on the power that food holds over your health, visit deannaminich.com. To get you started on your path to Mediterranean-style health, here’s a few nutritious recipes:

Shredded Carrot and Cabbage Salad with Mediterranean Cod (omnivore) or Nut-Seed Pâté (vegan) 

Source: Whole Detox 

For omnivores: 

– 1 tablespoon extra- virgin olive oil

– ½ teaspoon ground oregano 

– 3 ounces wild- caught cod 

– Juice of ½ medium lemon

For vegans:

– ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for several hours and rinsed 

– ¼ cup raw pine nuts, soaked for several hours and rinsed 

– 2 tablespoons tahini 

– 1∕8 teaspoon ground cumin 

– Juice of ½ medium lemon

For both: 

– ½ cup shredded carrots 

– ½ cup shredded red cabbage 

– 1 handful mixed greens, about 1 cup, cut into bite- size pieces

– ½ avocado (saved from yesterday), cubed 

– Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the dressing:

– 2 tablespoons orange juice 

– 1 tablespoon high- oleic sunflower oil or extra- virgin olive oil 

– ¼ teaspoon parsley flakes

In a small bowl, combine the carrots and cabbage. In another small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients, then pour the dressing over the carrots and cabbage. Set the salad aside. Omnivores, heat the olive oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat, then stir in the oregano. Gently add the cod to the skillet and squeeze the lemon juice on top. Let the cod cook until it’s firm, about 5 minutes on each side. While it’s cooking, arrange the mixed greens and avocado on a serving plate. Place the cooked cod on the greens, and top the cod with the salad (or put it to the side if you prefer). Season to taste. Vegans, in a high- speed blender or food processor, blend the sunflower seeds, pine nuts, tahini, cumin, and lemon juice, adding water as needed for consistency. Arrange the mixed greens and avocado on a serving plate. Spoon the salad on top of the greens, followed by the nut and seed blend. Season to taste.

Wild Salmon with Tangy Apricot Sauce and Greens 

Source: Whole Detox 

– 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra- virgin olive oil 

– 1 8-  to 10- ounce wild- caught salmon fillet 

– 2 handfuls arugula or other leafy greens, about 2 cups

– 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 

– 1 teaspoon dried dill

For the sauce: 

– 3 apricots, pitted and diced 

– 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 

– 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 

– 1 tablespoon sesame oil

– 4 tablespoons orange juice (fresh- squeezed preferred) 

– 1 teaspoon orange zest

In a skillet set over low heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the salmon in the oil with its skin side down. Cover the skillet and let the salmon cook. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the apricots, vinegar, and ginger, and stir the mixture for about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and add the sesame oil, orange juice, and orange zest, combining everything well. Then pour this heated mixture on top of the salmon, continuing to cook until the salmon is done, turning it on each side for a total cooking time of about 7 to 10 minutes. In a bowl, lightly toss the greens with the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and dill. Transfer them to a serving plate, then dish half the salmon alongside them.

Dr. Deanna Minich is an internationally recognized, cutting-edge wellness and lifestyle medicine expert who has mastered the art of integrating ancient healing traditions with modern science. Her unique “whole self” approach to nutrition looks at physiology, psychology, eating, and living within what she calls the “7 Systems of Health.” A five-time book author, and founder of Food & Spirit, she continues to do detox programs with individuals to help them achieve better health. Her new book is Whole Detox, published by HarperCollins in March 2016. For more information, visit drdeannaminich.com