Feasting Like the Greeks & Romans Is Good
This time of year, I love snacking on soups, breads, hummus and olives. So I was thrilled to read this morning’s article in the New York Daily News reminding us once again that the Mediterranean diet is linked to longer lifespan and better health.
Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women who follow a Mediterranean-based diet were 40 percent more likely to reach age 70 without heart disease or diabetes. Related studies have even tied the food of the Greeks to decreased numbers in dementia patients. The research studied over 10,000 women from ages 50-60 for a period of 15 years and watched those who focused on plant-based eating excel in health and fitness.
It’s not all feta on pizza and pita bread, however. A Mediterranean diet has to include a few key components to reap the health benefits — vegetables, whole grains, legumes (such as the chickpeas in hummus) and fish. These are already components of a healthy diet, so what’s the surprise?
Olive oil is a big part of the diet and makes a perfect addition to bean dips and salads. A splash in your couscous or cooked whole grain pasta can make for a great pasta salad. The other great news with the Mediterranean diet is the positive inclusion of wine. Proponents of the diet suggest a glass of red wine with dinner (that’s a 6 ounce wine glass, not a tall water glass, folks) is one of the beneficial aspects of Mediterranean eating.
So many great Greek and Mediterranean snacks are easily obtained at your grocery store. A favorite way of mine to get my veggies is to cook up a box of Trader Joe’s whole wheat couscous, and toss in whatever great veggies I have laying around the house. Cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and arugula are all awesome. Splash in some olive oil or chopped olives and the juice of a lemon, for a vitamin-packed cold salad that will fill you up and get you your veggies while you dream of white statues along blue oceans.Whole wheat pita is great to keep around, as is flatbreads, and they’re both improved by the addition of hummus or tapenade. Homemade hummus can be as easy as a can of chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice and spices — though traditionally hummus contains tahini, a Middle Eastern sesame paste. For olive lovers like me, hummus topped with fresh tapenade is heaven on earth.
The best thing about the Mediterranean diet is it’s not short on comfort food. Tuck into your favorite whole grain pastas, olive oils and thick vegetable soups all winter and know you’re doing your body good.
Health editor, Tini Howard is a writer, aerialist and foodie from the East Coast.