Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Beginners: 365 Days of Quick
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Close your eyes, and imagine sitting outside at a well-worn-in wooden table at a quaint restaurant on the Mediterranean coast. Bright blue skies above you, and sparkling water beside you. The warm sun embraces you with gentle rays. Your meal is placed in front of you with a generous smile from the waiter. It smells heavenly. The fish is fresh from the sea, and the brightly colored vegetables were harvested that morning.
You may be sitting at your kitchen table, far away from the Mediterranean, but you can still enjoy the fresh, delicious, simple foods served in countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Using the recipes in this book can take you on a culinary journey to parts of the world you may only dream of visiting.
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet far exceed the taste. Scientists noticed that the people living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea are healthy, well into old age. They live longer, and their health is better than people living in other parts of the world.
Looking at their lifestyles, and the foods they eat, it became clear that these people are living well. They are active every day, mostly walking or cycling to wherever they need to go. They eat fresh food that is grown locally and cooked simply with healthy olive oil. They enjoy their meals with family and friends, sipping on a glass of red wine. They naturally understand the benefits of moderation.
That is why the Mediterranean Diet has become so popular. Year after year, it is ranked as the best diet overall. It is a down-to-earth diet, with an emphasis on healthy foods and moderation. It is a balanced diet, full of variety, making it both satisfying and nutritionally sound.
As a dietitian, my go-to for counselling my patients are the Mediterranean dietary principles. Whether they are seeking advice for weight loss, heart disease, diabetes or general health and wellbeing, the balance and nutrition provided by the Mediterranean Diet address their concerns.
And it is easy to follow. The only foods you are cutting out are the highly processed ones, full of denatured fats and excess sugars. These are not allowed in any diet. Everything else is accounted for. Unprocessed, slow-release carbohydrates, healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds, lean proteins, and lots and lots of vegetables and fruits.
It is a way of eating that comes naturally to many people. And the ratios of each type of food can be easily adjusted to meet your individual needs. If your body thrives on carbohydrates, you can eat a bit more of those. If you do better with more fat – no problem, simply add in more foods that are rich in healthy fats.
Not only will your taste buds thank you for cooking from these recipes, your entire body will feel healthier and more energized. You, too, can live a healthier, longer life by embracing the lifestyle enjoyed by the people living near the Mediterranean Sea.
The Blue Zones: Eating for health and longevity
Your genes have a role to play in your health, and how well you age, but your lifestyle influences your genes. This concept has been highlighted by the work of Dan Buettner. He has studied the areas of the world where people live longer, and he wrote the book, “The Blue Zones”, to express his findings.
There is nothing magical about the color blue, and your health and longevity. Rather, the name came about because Buettner and his team drew blue circles around the locations when they were identified. The areas they studied included Ikaria in Greece, Loma Linda in California, Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, and Nicoya in Costa Rica.
Buettner identified these areas because the people living there have lower rates of chronic diseases, and live well into old age. He wanted to know why. Buettner and his team found some similarities in the lifestyles of the people living in these communities:
- They eat plenty of vegetables
- Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas, form the basis for many meals
- The diet is rich in whole grains
- Nuts provide protein and healthy fats
- Fish is eaten in the Blue Zones that are situated near the sea
- A calorie restriction is a normal way of life
- They practice periodic fasting
- Alcohol is enjoyed in moderation
- Daily physical activity is a part of everyday life
- Sleep is a priority. People in the Blue Zones get enough sleep at night, and take afternoon naps.
- Spirituality is important
- As well as having a purpose in life
- Older people are not separated from their families
- They have a strong social network
Two of the Blue Zones fall within the Mediterranean Sea – Ikaria and Sardinia. The same patterns are found in other communities living near the Mediterranean Sea. With decades of research to back it up, the Mediterranean Diet has become the gold-standard for healthy eating. It promotes a healthy weight, keeps chronic diseases at bay, and helps people live longer.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The word “diet” has come to mean “weight loss diet” for many people. It is, in fact, a term that refers to the way you eat. It doesn’t matter whether you choose healthy foods that promote health and wellbeing, or if your preference is for ultra-processed, fatty, sugar-filled foods. Either way, your choice of food would be referred to as your diet.
If you apply this way of thinking to the Mediterranean Diet, it is the way people eat in that part of the world. It is not a diet that has been formulated by science for a specific purpose. It is a diet that has evolved over thousands of years to keep people fed and nourished.
It is a diet that is based on fresh local produce, and making the most of simple ingredients when they are at their best. Most meals are plant-centric. Whole grains, legumes, and vegetables are the heroes of your meal. Meat, fish, and chicken play a supporting role, adding protein and flavor to your dishes.
The food is nutritious and satisfying. Enjoying everything in moderation comes naturally, because your body is receiving all the energy and nutrients it needs to function at its best. The Mediterranean way of eating is not restrictive; everything is allowed. It is a diet that encourages you to live your life to the fullest, enjoying every meal, and being able to socialize, guilt-free, with friends and family.
The healthy Mediterranean lifestyle
The communities of the Mediterranean have a holistic approach to life. Diet is only a part of the bigger picture.
People have strong social connections, which helps to improve both physical and mental health. It has been shown that being involved in your community, and regularly visiting with friends and family, can increase your longevity by up to 50%. It can also help to keep depression and anxiety at bay, and strengthen your immune system. Sitting down to a leisurely meal with family every day, and sipping a glass of red wine, can do wonders for your overall sense of wellbeing.
Daily physical activity is a built-in feature of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Instead of spending hours in the car, people will walk or cycle to work. They walk down the road to buy the fresh ingredients for their next meal, stopping to chat with friends they meet along the way.
The people living in this region know the benefits of downtime. They take more time off for vacations than the average American. And a midday meal away from their desks, spent with family, is an important part of their day. It is a way of managing stress that comes naturally to them.
The health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Scientific research continues to show that the Mediterranean diet brings more to the table than delicious food. The people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean are healthier, and live longer than people living in other parts of the world. The full benefits will be achieved if the holistic lifestyle is embraced, but the diet alone offers many health benefits:
- Longevity – The Mediterranean Diet reduces overall mortality by 9%.
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease – The fiber-rich foods and healthy fats that make up the Mediterranean Diet help to mitigate the risk factors associated with heart disease, including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, raising HDL (good) cholesterol, managing weight, and lowering blood pressure.
- Lower risk of depression – Unsaturated fatty acids, combined with nutrients from plant foods, help to prevent depression.
- Can prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes – The risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, when you eat according to the Mediterranean dietary principles, is reduced by up to 50%.
- Reduces the risk of some cancers – Colorectal, lung, liver, and breast cancer rates are significantly lower in countries in the Mediterranean region than they are in other parts of the world. It is interesting to note that when people move to other countries and adopt their eating habits, the incidence of these cancers rises.
- Improved cognitive function – Scientific studies have shown that the Mediterranean Diet can improve cognitive function, and reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Use our recipes to dish up a plate full of health and wellbeing. Support both your physical and mental health with fresh, wholesome ingredients in the right proportions, with a dash of healthy fats for good measure.
Embrace the principles of the Mediterranean Diet
People living in different regions of the Mediterranean Basin have different styles of eating, and varied food preferences. The fresh ingredients available are not the same from one area to the next, but they share the basic principles of the Mediterranean Diet.
The meals the Mediterranean people eat are mostly plant-based. The ingredients used for creating meals are in-season, fresh, and locally sourced. The focus is on unprocessed foods that includes whole grain cereals, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Olive oil is the main source of added fat, with more healthy fats coming from fish, nuts, and seeds. Dairy is consumed in moderation, with the focus on fermented products, such as cheese and yoghurt. And red meat and red wine are enjoyed only in moderation.
In combination, these dietary guidelines bring to the table all of the best nature has to offer. When we eat according to these principles, our taste buds are satisfied, our bellies are full, and our bodies are well-nourished.
Eat more plants
Vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, nuts, and seeds form the basis of the Mediterranean diet. At least three quarters of your plate will be filled with plant-based foods. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which all have health and disease-prevention benefits.
Fiber helps to prevent constipation. It also slows down the release of sugars into the blood, helping to control blood sugar levels, and prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol, and prevents its absorption into the blood. It therefore helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, and prevent heart disease.
The micronutrients support all biochemical processes in the body. They are involved in the process of extracting energy from the food we eat, boosting the immune system, and controlling inflammation in the body. They also help to lower your blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cancer.
Eat what is fresh and in-season
When you eat fresh, seasonal produce, you are maximizing the nutrition those foods have to offer. The less time between harvesting and eating, the better. The nutritional value of plant foods starts to decline as soon as they are removed from the earth, or the plant on which they grow. It is even better if they come from local sources, and have not had to spend time in storage, or in transit. The more time spent out of the ground or off the plant before being eaten, the more nutrients are lost.
Choose whole grains
Unprocessed and wholegrain carbohydrates provide energy to the body, in the form of starch, vitamins, and minerals, as well as soluble and insoluble fibers. Whole wheat pasta, cous-cous, barley, bulgar, and polenta are commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. They take a lot longer to be digested than refined carbohydrates. They are released more slowly into the blood, in the form of glucose, resulting in a gentle rise in blood sugar levels, and therefore lower insulin levels. Including whole grains in your diet has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 Diabetes.
Enjoy healthy fats
Monounsaturated fats are found in olives, olive oil, avocado pears, dark, oily fish, and nuts and seeds. They offer protection against heart disease by lowering total- and LDL-cholesterol levels, and increasing HDL-cholesterol levels. They have anti-inflammatory properties, helping to control inflammation in the body, which underlies many health conditions, including obesity, dementia, and arthritis. Most of the fats in a Mediterranean-style diet come from foods that are a rich source of these essential fats.
Eat fish twice a week
When it comes to animal sources of protein, fish is the focus in the Mediterranean Diet. Whether it is dark, oily fish, like tuna, trout, salmon, sardines, or mackerel, or white fish, such as halibut, hake, sole, or whiting, the goal is to include fish in your menu at least twice a week. The dark, oily fish is a particularly good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower cholesterol levels, and protect the body against inflammation.
Cook vegetarian meals twice a week
Legumes, in the form of beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are frequently used as a plant source of protein. They are extremely versatile. They can be used in pasta dishes, stews, and soups, or pureed to make dips and spreads, such as hummus. They are a source of low GI carbohydrates, protein, and soluble fiber. They are useful for controlling blood sugar levels, and for reducing the risk of colon cancer and cardiovascular disease.
If you enjoy these nutritional powerhouses, you are not limited to including them only twice a week. You can eat them as often as you like. If they are new to you, start experimenting with our tasty, legume-based meals. You can soak them and cook them from scratch, but the tinned options are just as good, and much quicker to prepare. Just remember to rinse them well to remove the salt.
Cheese and yoghurt in moderation
Small portions of cheese and yoghurt are included in the Mediterranean diet. Milk is not routinely consumed in this region, but a small amount of the fermented products is eaten every day. It could be some Greek yoghurt for breakfast, and a small portion of cheese as a snack, or to add flavor to a salad. The fermentation process makes these products more gentle on the digestive system, by reducing the amount of lactose in them. They also provide a source of beneficial bacteria that are good for gut health. A healthy gut has been shown to have health benefits throughout the body. An unhealthy gut has been linked to weight gain/loss, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, brain function problems, and depression and anxiety.
Limit red meat
Very little red meat is eaten in the Mediterranean diet. When it is part of a meal, it is only in small amounts. By reducing how much red meat you eat, you reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet. Saturated fat provides the building blocks for cholesterol. While we need some cholesterol in our blood, to make hormones and other structures in the body, consuming too much has been linked to heart disease.
Enjoy a glass of wine
If you enjoy a glass of wine with your meal – especially red wine – you are more than welcome to continue drinking it. But it is not an essential component of the Mediterranean Diet. You don’t have to start drinking if it is not for you. The antioxidants in red wine have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Moderation is key
Everything is allowed in the Mediterranean Diet, even cake. But only in moderation. The people of this region understand that too much of a good thing is bad for their health. That includes the good foods, too. Eating too many calories causes weight gain and disease, even if those calories come from healthy foods.
Table of Contents
The Blue Zones: Eating for health and longevity
The health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet for health and longevity
28 Day Meal Plan
Honey-Sweetened Greek Yogurt
Fruity Breakfast Couscous
Fruity Yogurt-Topped Avocado Salad
Spanish-Style Toasted Tomato Baguettes
Swiss Chard Breakfast Pizza
Mediterranean Breakfast Panini
Zesty Fruit Parfaits
Salmon & Swiss Chard Crepes
Avocado-Topped Curry Shakshuka
Pan-Fried Haloumi & Greens
Breakfast Egg & Bean Cups
Breakfast Surf & Turf
Herb-Encrusted Italian Omelet
Pumpkin-Spiced Autumn Quinoa
Quick & Easy Ham & Eggs
Snacks & Appetizers
Savory Mushroom Pancakes
Spicy Herb & Tuna Bocadillo
Yogurt-Topped Squash Fritters
Spicy Mediterranean Tapenade
Rainbow Trout Herb Pate
Mediterranean Deviled Eggs
Cheesy, Almond-Crusted Chard Pie
Cheesy Pickled Beet Bites
Olive-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Spicy Crab Bites
Zesty Cucumber & Yogurt Dip
Scrumptious Curry Roasted Chickpeas
Roast Beef & Asparagus Bundles
Fiery Homemade Tomato-Topped Fries
Zesty White Wine Marinated Olives
Salads & Sides
Mediterranean-Style Tuna Salad
Balsamic-Dressed Calamari Salad
Pumpkin-Topped Autumn Rice
Crispy Balsamic Raisin Cauliflower
Italian-Style Oven Bread
Mediterranean-Style Mashed Potatoes
Fresh Mint & Toasted Pita Salad
Zesty Vinaigrette Potato Salad
Nutty & Dense Seed Bread
Pan-Crisped Mushroom Gnocchi Salad
Mediterranean-Style Steamed Leeks
Lemon & Mint-Topped Garden Salad
Creamy & Crunchy Cucumber Salsa
Spicy Fried Fava Beans
Lemon-Simmered Chicken & Artichokes
Crispy Chicken & Cabbage Noodles
Ouzo & Orange Glazed Duck
Zesty, Lettuce-Wrapped Chicken Gyros
Ground Turkey Patties in Green Sauce
Herb-Marinated Chicken & Radish Salad
Curried Chicken Patties
Curried Duck & Winter Vegetables
Stir-Fried Chicken & Barley
Ground Turkey Mince
Greek-Style Chicken Couscous
Vegetable & Herb Chicken Cacciatore
Italian-Style Slow Cooker Chicken
Spicy, Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Skewers
One-Pan Chicken Pecan Bake
Fish & Seafood
Very-Berry Sweet Chili Salmon Fillets
Greek-Style Pan-Roasted Swordfish
Garlic Broiled Flounder Fillets
Spicy Mackerel & Kelp Bowls
Traditional Greek Wine-Braised Octopus
Cinnamon-Glazed Halibut Fillets
Avocado-Tossed Shrimp Salad
Healthy Tuna & Bean Wraps
Coconut-Marinated Salmon Bowls
Herb-Infused Seafood Paella
Two-Way Tilapia Fillets
Mediterranean-Stuffed Calamari Tubes
Asian-Style Cod Bake
Olive Baked Cod Fillets
Zesty Scallops & Pasta
Yam & Bean Bowls
White Bean, Zucchini, & Squash Casserole
Crispy Vegetable Paella
One-Pot Curried Halloumi
Cauliflower Steaks & Romesco Sauce
Ricotta Salata Pasta
Curried Chickpea Burgers
Nutty Butternut Couscous
Turkish-Style Grilled Meatballs
Croatian Double-Crusted Vegetable Tart
Cheesy Pumpkin & Mushroom Lasagna
Fresh Herb & Summer Vegetable Casserole
Italian-Spiced Mushroom Beanballs
Spinach & Gruyere Cannelloni
Crispy Vegetable Pizza
Soups & Stews
Lentil & Carrot Comfort Soup
White Wine Bouillabaisse Soup
Italian Bean & Cabbage Soup
One-Pot Moroccan Lentil Stew
Slow-Cooked Venison Stew
Chicken & Chard Wild Rice Soup
Beefy Yam Stew
Great Northern Bean Soup
Cheesy Salmon & Vegetable Soup
Delicious Chickpea & Pasta Soup
Spicy Pork & Bean Stew
Cheesy Tomato & Onion Soup
Potato & Leek Soup
Red Wine Braised Beef Stew
Minty Rosemary & Lamb Soup
Homemade Frozen Greek Yogurt
Pistachio & Honey Baklava
Nutty-Topped Pear Crisp
Traditional Vanilla Spanish Cream
Honey-Drizzled Polenta Cake
Peach Cobbler with a Twist
Figgy Cheese Pistachio Truffles
Decadent Eggless Chocolate Mousse
Crispy Pistachio Biscotti Cookies
Zingy Low-Carb Lemon Cake
Almond Crusted Raspberry Tart
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
Cheese & Mint Grilled Watermelon
Decadently Simple Chocolate Pudding
Nutty Stuffed Figs
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|Epub||March 8, 2022|
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