The Mediterranean diet shouldn't be Greek to your heart

Green bowl filled with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper drizzled with oil

With February being Heart Month, it’s a great time to assess your diet and make it more heart-healthy. The modern American diet tends to be heavy on meats, sugar, and processed foods, with few fresh fruits and vegetables making it onto our plates.

By contrast, the Mediterranean diet is recognized as a heart-healthy regimen. It lowers cardiovascular risk in many ways, partially by limiting saturated fat and sugar consumption. It also has been associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, certain cancers, and cognitive decline.

There is no “official” Mediterranean diet plan, but following the guidelines below can help promote health and prevent disease.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating lots of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts
  • Using olive oil – a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats – instead of butter or margarine
  • Reducing intake of red meat; eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all (no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men), and drinking water instead of sugary drinks like soda

Keep in mind the Mediterranean diet “approach” is as much a lifestyle as it is a dietary plan.

It also means being physically active and sitting down at the table with your family and friends to enjoy your meal. 

Pistachio Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas
  • 2 heads butter lettuce, torn
  • 1/2 cup packed, fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed, fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 1 tablespoon chives, snipped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, snipped
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped

Directions

To make the dressing, combine in a jar with a lid: olive oil; finely grated peel of the entire lemon; 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice; vinegar; and ground pepper. Shake and let stand up to 2 hours or refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Note: Serve dressing at room temperature.)

For the rest of the salad: Cook snap peas in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Peas can be precooked and refrigerated to be used later that day or the next day.

Clean lettuce and herbs (tear leaves or snip into smaller pieces) and toss onto a platter with apricots, pistachios, and snap peas. Drizzle dressing over the salad or serve on the side.

Nutrition Panel based on 2,000 calorie diet, serving size 1, Calories 130, 90 calories from fat, total fat 10 grams, saturated fats 1.5 grams, trans fats 0 grams, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 50mg, total charbohydrate 8g, dietary fiber 2g, sugars 4g, protein 3g, vitamin a 25%, vitamin c 15%, calcium 4%, iron 6%;

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