“March Madness” with Mediterranean!

This website contains carefully researched content meant to guide readers in educated health decisions. Although I am not a physician or research scientist, I am a committed and careful researcher of technical information and share health tips which I have considered and used in my own journey of health as a breast cancer survivor. I am also mindful of citing sources and careful not to plagiarize. If you choose to share the information I have published, please extend the respect of citing this website and my name as the source of the information, or citing the sources I have shared out of respect to your readers who choose to trust you as a source or conduit of information in their own journey of health. - Christy Begien, Non-Toxic Lifestyle (c) 2020 All rights reserved, Denver Colorado.

Posted by:

As the winter winds down, some of my most favorite comfort dishes come from the Mediterranean regions of the world. I subscribe to Clean Eating magazine so imagine my delight last night to receive my latest copy with several mouth- watering recipes. Numerous studies have proven that the dietary habits of those living in Mediterranean areas have lower rates of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. In fact, many claim it to be the world’s healthiest diet.

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

Northern Africa is known for the rich flavors of cinnamon, ginger and tumeric in their cuisine.

As we’ve all read, these diets are predominantly plant based, abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The common denominators to these regions are garlic and a love of olive oil, though the flavors vary widely. Just think of the flavor variations from Greece, Italy, Spain, Israel, Morocco, Lebanon, and coastal Egypt and France. Italy tends to use more herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary, while Morocco is known for the rich flavors of cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. (VegKitchen)

 

 

In furthering my knowledge of what each region specializes in, here’s what I found:

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

Delicious Moroccan tagine with chickpeas and vegetables.

 Morocco and Egypt

Chickpeas, lentils, nuts, carrots, pumpkins, squashes, rice, fava beans, dried fruits, sweet spices, flatbreads and mint.

My favorite Moroccan and Egyptian dishes: Couscous and tagine (vegetable stew)

 

 

Italy

Pastas, semolina breads, beans, cornmeal, Arborio rice, artichokes, asparagus, fennel, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, olives, green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs such as parsley, basil and rosemary.

My favorite Italian dishes: Risotto with anything, polenta, focaccia, minestrone, pesto and pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup).

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

Pita bread with Greek yogurt tzatziki sauce is a healthy refreshing snack.

Greece

Rice, lentils, olives, eggplant, tomatoes, lemon, spinach and dill.

My favorite Greek dishes: Moussaka (eggplant casserole) Spanakopita Spinach Pie, and Tzatziki, a refreshing Yogurt Cucumber dip that’s delicious on grilled meat or vegetables.

Israel and Lebanon

Chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste) cracked wheat, olives, tomatoes, eggplant, yogurt, flatbreads, apricots, dates and parsley.

My favorite Israeli and Lebanese dishes: Hummus (chickpea dip), baba ghanouj (egglplant dip) and tabouleh (cracked wheat and parsley salad).

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

Traditional Spanish paella is a bit labor-intensive, but worth every savory bite.

Spain

Sweet and hot peppers, potatoes, rices, beans, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, oranges, saffron.

My favorite Spanish dish: Paella (rice and vegetables, most often with seafood).

 

 

France

Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, leeks, olives, eggplant, squash, sweet peppers, fennel, grapes, fresh and dried fruits, fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, sage and basil.

My favorite French dishes: Ratatouille (vegetable stew) and Soupe au pistou (vegetable soup with pesto sauce).

Here is a reminder of the health benefits of Mediterranean foods: (all the studies can’t be wrong!)

  • Improves weight loss
  • Improves sugar levels
  • Reduces risk of depression
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces risk of heart attack
  • Reduces risk of stroke (Study author-Dr. Paul Wright-American Stroke Association -2015)
  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

Try salmon with vegetables as a healthy alternative to red meat twice a week.

Tips for eating a Mediterranean diet

  • Switch up your proteins, especially red meat. Skinless turkey and chicken are fine, but try something new and learn to find enjoyment and health in lentils and chickpeas as protein alternatives. Also strive to have fish twice per week and treat yourself to nuts and other beans as you build a super salad.
  • Replace your butters with healthy oils, especially coconut or olive.
  • Eat more vegetables throughout the day
  • Eat more whole grain pasta, bread, rice and other grains. I love barley soup and quinoa has become a great side dish for many meals. Did you know popcorn is considered a whole grain? Yep! Just remember to air pop it and swap out the butter by drizzling or spritzing with olive oil. All of these are full of fiber, therefore filling you up.
  • Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

    Nuts and low-fat cheese in moderation make for healthy snacks.

    Eat more nuts! Some of my favorite go to snacks during the day are almonds. These along with walnuts and seeds are healthy snacks, along with low fat cheese. As with everything, eat any of these in moderation as more than a serving will pack on the pounds.

  • Eat fruit for dessert. It’s refreshing, light and healthy!

 

 

Without further ado, back to my April 2015 Clean Eating recipes! Here are the two that really caught my eye, both by Alison Kent:

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

Red lentils make for a beautifully colored stew.

Moroccan Red Lentil Stew

Lentils are loaded with vitamin B or folate, which support our nervous and cardiovascular systems. The cinnamon and turmeric in this recipe are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric may also curb joint pain.
Click here for a recipe card suitable for printing.

Chickpea and Kale Shakshouka

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

Easy-to-make eggs for dinner! (Courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine)

The New York Times notes “Shakshouka may be at the apex of eggs-for-dinner recipes, though in Israel it is breakfast food, a bright, spicy start to the day with a pile of pita or challah served on the side. It also makes excellent brunch or lunch food.” And with kale, it’s loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin A which supports our vision and bone protective Vitamin K.
Click here for a recipe card suitable for printing.

Over the years as we’ve weaned more red meat from our diets, we’ve discovered a larger, wonderful world grains and beans as healthy sources of protein. We’re finding they are so filling and as a result, we are keeping our waistlines in check. We eat a fair amount of lentils here at our house, either in soups, stews or salads. In addition, we’ve come to love experimenting with the various cultures cuisines and their respective herbs and spices. Meals have certainly become more healthy and interesting over the years. There are some wonderful recipes online and I encourage you to check them out.

This March, when you’re watching your favorite basketball teams (or not), why not join me in indulging in some March Madness Mediterranean Cuisine! Your body will thank you!

And as they say in Italy, Buon Appetito!

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

 

 

Sources:
American Stroke Association (2015)
Authority Nutrition
Clean Eating (April 2015)
Eating Well
HuffPost-Healthy Living (March 2015)
VegKitchen
New York Times

If you “Like” this post, I’d be thrilled if you’d share it.
3

Comments

  1. Marcia  March 19, 2015

    Great post again, Christy! Love the information you are sharing!

    reply
  2. Chris hyder  March 21, 2017

    Spot on! Easiest way for anybody to eat healthy with such delicious foods to choose from.

    reply

Add a Comment