Greek or Mediterranean food has long been known as heart healthy food, read on to find out about key ingredients and their benefits.
Olives and Olive Oil – They’re full of “healthy” fat, primarily monounsaturated, vitamin E, and polyphenols. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower “bad” or LDL cholesterol.
Whole Grains – Barley and whole wheat couscous are commonly found in Greek style salads and side dishes. These whole grains contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals to keep you healthy and feeling full.
Legumes – Chickpeas, peas, fava beans, and lima beans are often the center focus of a meal making your meal full of fiber and nutrients.
Fresh Herbs and Spices – Oregano, mint, dill, basil, thyme, rosemary, and garlic add tons of flavor and healthy phytonutrients to dishes.
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Colorful Veggies – Tomatoes (fresh and sun dried), cucumbers, eggplant, leafy greens, and zucchini are popular veggies used in Greek cooking that offer powerful phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Flavorful Cheeses – Feta and goat cheese add a ton a flavor and a small amount goes a long ways! Feta is naturally lower in fat than other cheeses.
Yogurt – Plain yogurt seasoned with cucumber, herbs, lemon, and garlic is often served as an accompaniment to meals.
Fish and Seafood – Greek meals are often accented by small amounts of lean protein, such as fish. Eating at least 2 servings of fish per week is recommended by many health organizations.
Nuts – They contain “healthy” fats that add protein, texture, and fiber to meals. Greek meals are often accented with pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts.
Fresh, Seasonal Fruits – Traditional Greek meals often end with seasonal fruits – now that’s a healthy dessert!
OLIVE OIL 101
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and is a great alternative to butter and margarine, which are high in saturated fat and trans fat, respectively. Olive oil is the richest source monounsaturated fats when compared to other vegetable oils.
Olive oil, which is abundant in the Mediterranean diet, is thought to be one of the only oils to have health-promoting benefits. A closer look at this type of diet has shown that people who use olive oil regularly, especially in place of other fats, have significantly lower rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and asthma. Add that to the use of plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans and you have one healthy plate!
And, it’s a joy to use - its light, delicate flavor makes it a good choice for a variety of dishes. Read on to learn more about the different types of olive oil and how to use them.
OLIVE OIL BY ORIGIN
Italy: Robust flavor with a deep color and peppery finish. Serve with tomatoes, roasted veggies and pasta dishes.
Spain: Subtle flavors with a sweet, buttery finish. Use in salads, sauces and for stir-frying.
Greece: Clear, fruit flavor with a peppery finish. Use in stews, soups and with steamed veggies.
California: Green grass flavors with a mild, pleasant finish. Use in stir-fries and for sautéing.
OLIVE OIL STYLES
Extra Virgin: Made from the first cold pressing of the olives. Must fall into the .5 to 1% acidity range.
Virgin: Also cold pressed, however the acid is between 1.5-2% and the flavor is less distinctive.
Semi-Fine: A blend of extra virgin and virgin oils and contains 3% acidity.
Pure: Used mainly as an ingredient. Quality is not as high in terms of flavor and color.