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low-fat, healthy heart, low fat mexican food recipes

Mediterranean Diet
May Reduce Heart Disease

Mediterranean diet results in lowest rate of heart disease in a study of seven Mediterranean countries.

This traditional diet of native Crete islanders features:

  • pasta & whole-grain bread

  • fresh fruits & vegetables

  • fish - grilled & steamed

  • olive oil

The right fat, not necessarily just low fat, can add years to your life!

Professor Kerin O'Dea and Catherine Itsiopoulos are two Australian nutritionists who noticed that natives of Crete, a Greek island, had an astonishingly low rate of death due to cardiovascular disease. 

Amazingly, these researchers discovered that this group of people with almost no heart disease deaths consumed a diet that is relatively high in fat - not a low fat diet as they would have expected.

A high fat diet can be good for your heart ...

How can this be?

The secret seems to be in the olive oil ...
  • Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat

  • Vegetables cooked in olive oil retain more antioxidants, which

    • reduce oxidation of LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol")

    • reduce clogging of the arteries (arteriosclerosis)

    • tremendously reduce risk of heart disease

  • Olive oil itself is an antioxidant

You too may experience these excellent health benefits by eating the recommended fresh fruits and vegetables in combination with olive oil.  While cooking your hamburger and french fries in olive oil is certainly healthier than using lard ...

- reducing saturated fats is always a healthy choice

- you will not significantly lower your risk of heart disease simply by eating more olive oil.

Olive oil enhances the natural heart protecting properties in foods and it's the combination that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Their major findings and recommendations are briefly summarized here:

So you want to know how you can prepare meals that follow the Mediterranean Diet guidelines?  I have compiled some recipes and a list of excellent cookbooks for your convenience.

Lowest rate of Cardiovascular Disease

Doctors and nutritionists compared the diets of of seven Mediterranean countries with those from the United States, Japan, and other European nations in a rigorous ten-year study.  Their objective was to determine the effects of different diets on heart disease.

The astounding results were certainly not expected ...

The people with the highest fat diet had the
lowest rates of cardiovascular disease!

The natives of Crete suffered almost no deaths from heart disease during the ten year study. They enjoyed much lower rates of cardiovascular disease - and absolutely much lower rates of death from heart disease than any other group in the study.

How the Mediterranean Diet Works

Antioxidants are well-known for their ability to reduce free radicals and help prevent a variety of cancers.  They also block the oxidation of bad cholesterol - a major cause of deadly clogged arteries. 

Okay, so where do I get my daily dose of antioxidants?

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Olive oil - particularly cold pressed, extra virgin
  • Red wine

It's not just what you eat, it's how you eat it

No news flash here ... your mother always made you eat your fruits and veggies.  The genius of the Mediterranean diet seems to be the combination of olive oil and vegetables that produces the outstanding heart healthy benefits.

Tomatoes, for example, have a high concentration of lycopene, but eating an uncooked tomato will provide you with only a small fraction of this powerful antioxidant.  Why are cooked tomatoes healthier? 

- The antioxidants dissolve easily in oil. Cooking your tomatoes in oil means more of the dissolved lycopenes will be digested and available to work their magic.

-  Olive oil is loaded with antioxidants and accelerates this process even more.  Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is best. 

A good rule of thumb is darker green olive oil equals more antioxidants.

Dietary Guidelines

The traditional Mediterranean Diet - as eaten by the natives of Crete - is mainly vegetarian, but not vegan.  The traditional diet includes red meat or chicken once a week and steamed or grilled fish twice a week.

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables - a wide variety including zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, and lots of leafy green veggies.

  • Whole-grain cereals and breads

  • Beans - lentils, chickpeas, white navy beans

  • Olive oil

There are very small amounts of animal (saturated) fats and butter and low amounts of vegetable oils & margarines.  The main idea is to replace saturated fats and vegetable oils with olive oil.

Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

Breakfast.  Toasted whole-grain bread with chopped tomato, onion, olive oil, basil, and oregano (Bruscetta) or two slices of whole-grain bread with olives and fresh fruit.

Lunch.  Mostly bean or fish soup with a salad and bread.

Snacks.  Fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, or unsalted almonds.

Dinner.  Usually a warm vegetarian dish - zucchini, spinach, or eggplant casseroles are common. Served with potatoes or whole-grain bread. Grilled or steamed fish two times a week. All the foods are made with olive oil.

Beverages.  Lots of water and two or three cups of herbal tea or coffee. One or two glasses of red wine.

Mediterranean Diet Cookbooks

Mediterranean Diet Recipes


K. O'Dea and K. Z. Walker: Dietary composition can influence patterns of regional fat loss, Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, Vol. 55 No. 4 (Suppl), 1998, pp.S32-S36.

M. Katan, S. Grundy and W. Willett: Beyond low-fat diets, The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 337, 21 August, 1997, pp.563-566.

G. Frost et al, Glycaemic index as a determinant of serum HDL-cholesterol concentration, The Lancet, Vol. 353, 27 March 1999, pp. 1045-1048.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Low Fat Diet, June 1999.

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