The Taste Of The Mediterranean

Creating a life that is positively good for you...


Lemon Tree

Fantastic flavouring and salt substitutes

Healing Herbs

The wonderful foods that can be so positively good for you have been listed based on current scientific evidence or theory.

Herbs and spices have played an important role as medicines over the last few thousand years. So often science reveals the wisdom of folklore, and so it is not surprising that many herbs are now being increasingly recognised for their goodness.

Indeed many herbs and spices contain substances that fight against disease and infection. Chimpanzees when ill will naturally eat certain wild plants not dissimilar to the herbs we know. So, nature can teach us to help our health!

Basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary and other herbs and spices have been used to flavour and preserve foods as well as for medicinal purposes. Many bioactive compounds contained in herbs are thought to have beneficial effects, including phenols and flavonols.

Some herbs such as rosemary contain compounds similar to aspirin which has been shown to have a protective effect in heart disease.

“Hot” spices such as cinnamon, mustard and chilli are also rich in antioxidants.

In Mediterranean countries, dishes are flavoured with a variety of herbs. Even a sprinkle of dry herbs is likely to give some benefit, though fresh herbs now readily available in supermarkets are a delightful and subtle addition to any dish.

Dry herbs may be available as a salt substitute, producing a more sophisticated and healthier option as a flavour enhancer. Taste develops “tolerance” to salt, so food will lose its natural taste to a heavy salt user. Wean yourself off added salt gradually(YOU DON’T NEED IT!) , and introduce herbs….. the difference will amaze!

Glorious Garlic

Garlic Cloves

© 2010 Adam Poole

Garlic is a common component in Mediterranean diets. It has been known for a number of years that it has health benefits, and many people buy expensive supplements or capsules.

The report of the British Nutrition Taskforce confirms the evidence that garlic has reported benefits in the prevention of heart disease and cancers. It was not so certain of the evidence base for the warding of vampires!

The sulphur containing chemicals may also play a role in prevention of infection. As with other bioactive substances at least part of the mechanism for prevention of heart disease lies in its action to inhibit blood clot formation, and reduce Blood Pressure.

As for “bad breath”, it is well understood that it is virtually impossible to smell garlic within a household of garlic eaters. So, the answer is to help friends and family appreciate that the gorgeous taste and aroma of garlic, coupled with its health benefits, means that more and more of us should be eating it regularly and so fewer of us will be aware of the later effects!

Garlic is a member of the onion family, and other varieties of onions also contain bioactive substances. Though remember to go for colour! Red onions are far more generously loaded with those gloriously good flavonols!

How to achieve the increase in dietary garlic

Garlic is available in many different forms. A basis for many dishes can be olive oil fried onions and garlic. Add peppers, tomatoes, herbs and protein (meat or fish) and you have the beginnings of a great recipe...

The Spaniards spread crushed garlic and tomato on wholemeal bread as a starter or salad accompaniment.

Garlic pastes are now available and can be added to sauces or dressings

Raw garlic cloves accompany pitted olives

Roasted vegetables are an increasingly popular winter side dish. Whole cloves can be placed alongside other vegetables basted in olive oil.

Luscious Lemons

Lemons are ever present in Mediterranean cuisine. They enhance the flavour of salads, fish, vegetables, meat and dressings.

Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, which is fine and dandy, but as explained in the introduction, few of us are deficient in such vitamins. The likely real benefit of lemon juice in the diet probably lies in its effect on the GLYCAEMIC INDEX (GI).

Much has been written about the “GI Diet”, and I do not intend to explore this area in too much depth. The Mediterranean diet is a ready made low GI diet, so there is simply no need to bore readers too much! Suffice to say that carbohydrate slowly absorbed is less likely to give sugar load boosts that contribute to obesity, diabetes etc. The unprocessed cereal, wholegrain, fibrous nature of the Mediterranean diet is a low GI diet by definition (so do stick to WHOLEMEAL UNPROCESSED rice, pasta, bread etc – its more flavoursome and “nutty” anyway!).

Ok, so back to luscious lemons! Research has shown that citrus fruits that are acidic delay emptying of the stomach. This reduces the Glycaemic Index or Load of the meal, and so probably reduces risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers prevalent in the overweight...

So, not only luscious, but wonderfully tasty and healthy.

Lemons ready to slice in the fruit bowl is great, but if you want quick access, there are long life lemon juice preparations that can be stored in the fridge and brought out at every mealtimes for a generous squirt (along with the pinch of mixed herbs and splash of olive oil!)

STEP 6; The Bottom Line - A squirt of lemon, a pinch of herbs, and garlic everywhere to keep a healthy state.