Best Mediterranean Diet Food

Hi everyone,

As so many different diets these days seem to be taking the spotlight, I thought it was only fair to bring things back to one of the truly scientifically supported way of eating for good long term health, the Mediterranean diet.

We often hear people discussing the inclusion olive oil, fish, nuts and even fresh fruits and vegetables..but I swear the humble legume seems to miss the spotlight far too often.

As time has gone on I seem to repeatedly be seeing more and more legume based manufactured products enter into the market..what can I say except for that this makes me very very happy! (Evidently I am not someone who is anti these high fibre plant based protein power houses!).

gluten free waffles that are made from high protein legume based flours

gluten free waffles that are made from high protein legume based flours

When we think of beans, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that as consumers across the globe, Heinz baked beans are the first thing that spring to mind (well done Heinz..clearly someone has done a good job with owning this space!); This infamous blue tin sitting in the far corner of the pantry definitely does not have to be the one and only mode of transport between the legumes in this world that are available for human consumption, and ones stomach!

There is definitely a trend for more Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influenced snack products coming to life, such as on-the-go hummus and pita chip packs, different flavoured chickpea based dips (such as avocado or thai spiced), lentil crackers, puffed legume chips, and even nut free bars that are based off chickpeas. I think it will be interesting to see the time that it takes to see the food industry start weaving in more legume varieties into their products, as chickpeas are certainly taking a front seat in the snack ranges I have seen so far!

Mediterra - great new company!

Mediterra – great new company!

lentil snaps legume based chip healthy the good bean chickpea snacks

For many generations, people living in the Mediterranean have been thriving on a diet rich in legumes, foods rich in healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, limited sugar, as well as reaping the non-nutritive benefits from foods such as antioxidants and polyphenols.

As someone who has travelled throughout this region of the world, I can wholeheartedly say that their food is phenomenally tasty and healthy!

Happily consuming omega-3s in the Mediterranean!

Happily consuming omega-3s in the Mediterranean!

Research into the Mediterranean diet has uncovered many health benefits, including the decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity (Im thinking they are onto something here). The good health-promoting fats coming from olive oil, fish, and nuts found in this diet contain compounds such as polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and mono-unsaturated fats, respectively.

A large number of studies have investigated the benefits of polyphenols in the diet, with the results suggesting that these compounds may produce antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and bacteria-fighting effects in the body (#winning right?!).

As for legumes, this large family of vegetable provides a good source of dietary fibre, B-group vitamins, and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and calcium. As most of you would already know, it does seem to continually be shown that eating a diet high in dietary fibre can aid weight loss and weight management efforts (I certainly know I have been preaching fibre, in particular, soluble prebiotic fibres and resistant starch, for some time now, and seeing great success in satiety and results for my one on one patients).

The research behind these claims reveals that high-fibre foods can increase satiety, thus reducing the amount of food consumed in total. What’s more is that legumes tend to have a low Glycemic Index, which is important for keeping blood sugar levels steady and reducing those nasty food cravings that many people unfortunately find themselves being taken over by. 

In general, the Mediterranean diet consists of very little red meat, with fish and cheese being the main animal products consumed. With this in mind, if you are a vegetarian or simply prefer to not eat a lot of red meat, then adding legumes into your diet can be a great way of obtaining more iron and protein in your meal, which are important for blood cell formation (to help carry oxygen around the body and keep your energy levels up), cell repair and replenishment, as well as general blood, brain, and muscle health.

Celebrate Health is a great Australian innovative company with lots of healthy products in the plant protein space.

Celebrate Health is a great Australian innovative company with lots of healthy products in the plant protein space.

Celebrate Health is a great Australian innovative company with lots of healthy products in the plant protein space.

Celebrate Health is a great Australian innovative company with lots of healthy products in the plant protein space.

Food in the Mediterranean

Food in the Mediterranean

Below is a table, showing some of the key nutrients found in legumes. Each value is based on a 100g sample of boiled beans, without salt, and peanuts are taken from a raw sample of nuts.

Legumes high in Fibre

(grams)*

Legumes with complete Protein profile (Containing all Essential Amino Acids) Legumes high in Iron (> 10% DV) Legumes high in Folate (> 30% DV) Legumes high in B-Vitamins
– Lima Beans 7.0g- Red Kidney 7.4g 

– Chickpeas 7.6g

 

– Lentils 7.9g

 

– Black beans 8.7g

 

– Mung beans 7.6g

– Lima Beans- Red Kidney 

– Chickpeas

 

– Soybeans

 

– Black beans

– Chickpeas 16%- Soybeans 29% 

– Lima beans 13%

 

– Red Kidney 16%

– Red Kidney 33%- Chickpeas 43% 

– Lentils 45%

 

– Black beans 37%

 

– Mung beans 40%

 

– Peanuts 60%

– Chickpeas high in B6 and Thiamin

– Lentils high in Thiamin

– Soybeans high in Thiamin and Riboflavin

– Black beans high in Thiamin

– Peanuts high in Niacin and Thiamin

* Source of nutritional data; USDA, %DV show the percentage daily values for adults consuming an average diet of 8,300kj/ 2000 calories. Your daily intake may be greater or less than this depending on your energy needs.

 

In an interesting book titled “The Mediterranean Diet”, Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, from La Trobe University (Australia), explains the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet, and suggests we try to eat around 500g of legumes per week (equating to only ½ cup of cooked beans per day) – easy enough right?

So, inspired by Chrissy Freer’s book, Supergrains, I have taken a recipe that combines legumes with olive oil, and tweaked it slightly by adding lentils and sweet potato. Enjoy!

Lentil, Chickpea, and Quinoa Souplentil chickpea quinoa vegan soup

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
400g tin brown lentils, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa
1 medium sweet potato
400g tin diced tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
750 ml water and stock cube
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp sweet paprika

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in saucepan, and cook onion for a few minutes, add the garlic and spices until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, cooking for 1 minute.
  2. Add the chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, and sweet potato, heating through for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stock, and when at the boil reduce heat to simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Once the sweet potato is cooked through, blend half the soup, and return to the pot. Season as desired, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and toast.

lentil chickpea quinoa soup

If you are not currently including legumes in your repertoire of dishes, I highly recommend that you think about ways of weaving them in that you could enjoy!

If for some reason you find they cause too much stomach distress, I would suggest cutting down on portion size, and making sure you don’t pair them with other foods that would typically cause you problems. For example,  some people have issues with gaseous cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower or cabbage, whilst others from onions; in either case, I would just suggest that you do not pair them all together, and simply try adding in a small serve to your diet to begin..and then go from there!

For now,

TD x

References:

  1. Trinidad P. Trinidad*, Aida C. Mallillin, Anacleta S. Loyola, et al. 2010, “The potential health benefits of legumes as a good source of dietary fibre”, British Journal of Nutrition, 103, 569–574
  2. Ramón Estruch, M.D., Ph.D., Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., Jordi Salas-Salvadó, M.D., Ph.D., Maria-Isabel Covas, D.Pharm, et al. 2013, “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet”, N Engl J Med, 368:1279-1290
  3. Michel de Lorgeril* and Patricia Salen, 2006, “The Mediterranean-style diet for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases”, Public Health Nutrition, 9, 1A, pp 118–123
  4. James W. Anderson, Pat Baird, Richard H. Davis Jnr, et al. 2009, “Health benefits of dietary fiber”, Nutrition Reviews, 67, 4, 188-205
  5. Chrissy Freer, 2013, “Supergrains”, Murdoch Books Pty Ltd, p20
  6. Catherine Itsiopoulos, 2013, “The Mediterranean Diet”, Macmillan Australia

 

About The Author

Kara Landau aka "Travelling Dietitian" is an Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian based in New York City. She is a world explorer, healthy foodie, social butterfly, and barre class lover. When she isn't trying new cuisines, researching new product innovations in the health food space, or speaking to the media on behalf of her food industry clients, she can be found quietly conjuring up her next idea in how to make this world a healthier and better place.

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