Greek cuisine is regarded as one of the healthiest in the world. According to Dr Simon Poole, author of ‘Taste of the Med’, Mediterranean cuisine is simple, naturally unprocessed, and full of low GI foods. Based largely around fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish, olive oil and a small amount of cheese and yoghurt, this diet is not only delicious but great for keeping your heart happy and healthy.
Here are a few Mediterranean ingredients to add to your shopping list in a bid to live a long and healthy life:
MED FOOD 1: Olive Oil - is at the heart of the Mediterranean Diet. Containing vitamin E and polyphenol antioxidants, these important nutrients protect our bodies from the harmful effects of oxidation which can result in heart disease.
According to the JAMA International Medicine study, research found that women who already had healthy diets and added 4 tbsp more extra virgin olive oil a day lowered their risk of breast cancer by 68%. Oils made with the koroneiki variety (which includes kal are higher in health-boosting polyphenols too.
Try it: Odysea’s Iliada PDO Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil, £3.49 for 250ml from Odysea’s website and Sainsbury’s.
MED FOOD 2 – Balsamic Vinegar - Made from grapes, balsamic vinegar is known for its rich flavor and velvety black color. It's fermented in wooden barrels, much like wine, and the taste of balsamic vinegar intensifies the longer it is aged.
Dr Simon Poole suggests that a couple of teaspoons a week can reduce the glycemic index of foods, reducing the fast “dumping” of sugars from carbohydrates.
Try it: Odysea’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena £9.99 for 250ml newly available to buy in Sainsbury’s. Odysea’s balsamic glaze is 60% Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which is a high percentage compared to other brands which are much lower thus containing more sugar.
MED FOOD 3 – Honey – The benefits of honey go beyond its sweet taste it is a great natural source of carbohydrates which provide strength and energy to our bodies. Honey is known for its effectiveness in instantly boosting the performance, endurance and reduce muscle fatigue of athletes.
Its natural sugars play an important role in preventing fatigue during exercise. Honey is also a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat. Try a spoonful mixed with hot lemon water.
Try it: Odysea’s Greek Wild Thyme and Fragrant Herb Honey £6.99 for 480g from Sainsbury’s.
MED FOOD 4 – Olives - With its balance of unsaturated fats, vitamin E and the iron content in black varieties, olives are an essential component of the Mediterranean diet. On average, olives have 150 calories in every 100g serving, which is four times lower than processed snacks.Up to 77% of olives’ fat content is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat and studies show that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels.
Olives are versatile, so can be eaten as a tasty snack, steeped in delicious marinades, or used as an ingredient within numerous recipes; whether it’s a salad, meat dish or even a dessert.
Try it: Odysea’s Alexandra Style Olives With Sweet Bukovo Chilli and Cumin £3.99 for 315g from Odysea’s website.
MED FOOD 5 – Greek Feta Cheese - Feta is a cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. One of the main benefits of cheese is that it is a high-protein non-meat foodstuff, making it a great addition to vegetarian diets. In feta specifically, almost a quarter of its total calories come from protein, with a small 30g portion providing roughly 10% of the protein needed for one day.
It is especially high in the mineral chloride, which the human body needs to produce hydrochloric acid in the stomach, allowing it to digest and break down food. Normally brined (kept in salty water), feta has a uniquely salty taste and a crumbly, creamy texture that makes it a delicious ingredient.
Try it: Odysea’s PDO Feta Cheese made with 100% Sheep’s milk £2.99 for 200g available from Waitrose.