Eat Like a Roman: The Mediterranean Diet

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While your friends may be pushing Paleo, there’s another “ancient diet” that has been basking in a renaissance of its own, and with good reason. Called the “Gold Standard” of healthy eating, the Mediterranean diet is a style of eating that has been practiced since the dawn of the Roman empire. . A recent flurry of research has brought this style of eating back to the headlines. Earlier this year a groundbreaking study in the New England Journal of Medicine  made the Mediterranean Diet new around the world when it found that subjects following a Mediterranean diet (specifically looking at nuts and olive oil) reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30 percent.  

Score one more for the Mediterranean Diet when a study published in Neurology in April concluded that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil, fish and chicken (as opposed to fatty meats and dairy products typical in the American diet) resulted in a clearer mind – specifically a 19 percent drop in risk for thinking and memory problems. As there aren’t currently well established strategies to successfully treat dementia, delaying it’s onset is key. In this sense, the Mediterranean diet may be a useful tool for aging boomers – “food as medicine” in the truest sense of the word.

Need more good news? It turns out that the “Gold Standard” of eating is also deeply green. Just this month, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition launched their Double Pyramid tool in the U.S. to show consumers how this age old dietary pattern is not just good for you, but good for the planet (see image above). This infographic (developed using life cycle analysis), shows how key foods of the Mediterranean diet – such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil and pasta – are also some of the most eco-friendly foods to produce due to smaller carbon, water, and land footprints. (Full disclosure, I have a relationship with Barilla).

Frankly, as an Italophile and a green eating advocate, I couldn’t be happier with all of this much ado about something.

It’s worth noting that these are large, rigorous studies conducted over longer periods of time and published in peer reviewed journals. They reinforce and fine tune what a growing body of evidence suggests is one of the planet’s most delicious paths to a vibrant, long life. While it may not feel “new” enough to some as to merit a second look, in America’s current chaotic eating landscape, to me it feels like a merging of science and sense. Oh, and taste, too.

This is a bright spot in the sea of constant fad diets (the current crop including Paleo and intermittent fasting).  It reminds us that rather than obsessing over a handful of superfoods, there’s immense, synergistic power in an overall healthy eating pattern, day after day. And I love its key components – from fish, olive oil, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, legumes, and yes, even pasta.

So use the end of May (which happens to be Mediterranean Diet Month) and beyond to freshen up your food routine as seasonal produce begins to hit its glorious stride. Yes, you can slim down, while greening up your diet and bringing your family back to the table. If you’re swayed by the lure of ancient diets, remind yourself that this is the stuff that fueled Roman legions. The best part? Wine, in moderation, is included.

Here are my other two fantastic recipes to get you on a path to vibrant eating!

 

Elbows with Roasted Cauliflower - Kate Geagan and BarillaElbows with Roasted Cauliflower, Lentils and Herbs

A protein-packed dish with elbows pasta and lentils!  This is easy to prepare if you have extra cooked lentils on hand. The leftovers make an absolutely delicious and nourishing lunch!

Makes 7 servings

Cook Time: 40 min, Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla PLUS® Elbows 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small approximately 1 inch florets 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1/2 Tsp salt freshly cracked pepper to taste 1.5 cups dried French green lentils

Sauce 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed 2 Tbsp chopped red onion 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar 1/4 Tsp salt fresh cracked pepper to taste

Preparation:

PREHEAT oven to 450ºF.  SPREAD cauliflower on a roasting pan DRIZZLE olive oil on top and SEASON with salt and freshly cracked pepper. ROAST in oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is cooked through and has a nice brown roasted color. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of cold water and lentils. BRING to a boil, REDUCE heat, and SIMMER for 25 minutes until lentils are tender. DRAIN and set aside. PREPARE elbow pasta according to package directions. DRAIN reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. While the pasta is cooking, in a food processor COMBINE parsley, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and PULSE until it becomes a smooth green sauce. In a large mixing bowl combine cauliflower, cooked pasta, lentils and green sauce. ADD reserved cooking liquid and gently mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. SERVE warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 470 calories, 15 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 12 g fiber, 300 mg sodium

Slow Cooked Ratatouille - Kate Geagan and BarillaSlow Cooked Rotini Spring Ratatouille with Basil and Pine Nuts

This is surprisingly simple! Don’t be fooled by the long ingredient list. The magic of this delicious dish is your slow cooker does all the work! The anchovies are the secret to the rich bodied flavor and added health benefits of omega-3 fats, protein, and vitamin D from a sustainable seafood (you can omit them to make this vegetarian).

Makes 7 servings

Cook Time: 6 hours, Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla PLUS® Rotini 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut 1 inch dice 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1 inch dice 1 large red pepper, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch dice 1 large yellow pepper, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch dice 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thin 1 medium yellow squash, halved and sliced thin 3 cloves garlic, chopped 2 anchovies packed in oil, chopped 1 tsp Italian seasoning, spice mix 1 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp ground pepper 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes and juice 1 15 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and rinsed 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted small bunch fresh basil, torn into small pieces or julienned

Preparation:

GENTLY mix diced vegetables in slow cooker and COOK LOW for 6 hours overnight or while at work. TASTE and ADJUST seasoning to taste. PREPARE rotini according to package directions. SERVE by placing 2/3-1 cup rotini in a bowl ADD 1 cup ratatouille on top. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 410 calories, 12 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 11 g fiber, 720 mg sodium

On the Dr. Oz Blog: Wet Carbs for Weight Loss

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Wet Carbs What happens when the great minds of the nutrition community mingle at the edges of the great minds of the culinary world? Wet Carbs.

Let me explain.

I recently returned from the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in Napa, where I attended "Healthy Kitchens Healthy Lives", a joint conference with the Harvard School of Public Health. The goal of the weekend, according to co-creator (and one of my new idols) Dr. David Eisenberg, is to forge a bold new paradigm for health professionals - one that replaces the prescription pad with the kitchen. And it was here, somewhere between the inspiring collaboration, glorious food, and a few glasses of local wine, that the concept of "wet carbs" was bandied about.

Never heard of "wet carbs"? Think of it as an "ultra carb" of sorts. It's a catchy term that simply refers to whole grains that must first be prepared with water or other liquid before they’re ready for you to eat (such as oatmeal). While you likely already knew that whole grains were good for you, it turns out that focusing on carbs that need to be prepared with liquid (which adds weight and bulk) can speed up your weight loss efforts. I shared my secrets on using wet carbs for weight loss in my latest blog for www.blog.doctoroz.com.

Try This Trick: Wet Carbs for Weight Loss

Okay, so by now we all know that whole grain carbs trump refined carbs for nutrition, weight control, and to reduce our risk of heart disease and diabetes. And that we should be sure to make at least half of our grains that we consume each day whole grains. But are you ready to take your weight loss a step further? If so, “wet carbs” are where it’s at...

[Click Here to Read More]

On The Dr. Oz Show: Fat Fighting Foods

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avocados and orangesFat fighting foods. I had a ball a few weeks ago chatting with audience members at The Dr. Oz Show about some of my favorite foods and nutrients that may give you an extra edge when it comes to fighting fat (especially visceral fat, the sort that’s most hazardous to your health).  One thing’s for sure, it’s a topic that gets people paying attention: on the flight there, people perked up when I mentioned fat loss. On the flight home, people wanted to know when the segment was set to air.

 

So I wanted to share them here with you: You can read about my top 3 Dynamic Duos for fat loss in my latest blog post on The Oz Blog - Fight Fat Faster: 3 Dynamic Duos & Recipes,. Or get the live scoop from the television segment: Power Pairs to Melt Fat Faster.

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What are some your favorite fat busting foods? I'd love to hear!

Fight Fat Faster: 3 Dynamic Duos & Recipes Can certain foods give you an edge in the battle of the bulge? The answer appears to be yes.

When it comes to whittling your waistline, research suggests that there may indeed be certain foods and nutrients that can help you lose more weight – or shed more belly fat – than simply cutting calories. Given that belly fat is one of America’s most common complaints, is hard to lose, and can raise your risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease, it’s worth a closer look. Here are 3 “dynamic duos” I shared with Dr. Oz that you may want to add to your get-lean routine... [Click here to read more]

Power Pairs to Melt Fat Faster

Kate Geagan on The Dr. Oz Show - Click the video to watch the clip!

Power Pairs to Melt Fat Faster - Kate Geagan on The Dr. Oz Show