Tag Archives: Olive Oil

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

Hopefully you are convinced (as I am) that the Mediterranean diet is fantastic. It has proven to be a healthy way of life for many people – why not you? Unlike other diets such as the Atkins diet or Paleo diet there is little debate over whether or not it is good for you.

Of course, we have established that it is also quite different from other diets because it is more about food choices and cooking methods – a way of eating – rather than focusing on restrictions. In fact, it doesn’t really even talk about portion control. Although, I do recommend that you use good sense and eat moderately.

Other than that, this is one of the best diets on the planet. It’s tasty, easy to follow, and has multiple health benefits, such as:  reducing your risk of getting nasty diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Also – if you need to lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol . . . the Mediterranean diet is for you. If you want to live a long and healthy life . . . you got it! The Mediterranean diet is for you.

It you are focusing on clean eating, this is a diet that allows you to follow that philosophy, eat well, and enjoy the food.

The diet itself is quite simple and very flexible. You should be able to find most of the food at your local supermarket.

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

The diet can be broken down into a few groups, which makes it easy to shop:

  • Whole grains
  • Healthy oils & fats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Herbs and spices

That’s pretty much it. There may be a few other items, but for the most part, if you stick to these eight categories, you will be eating healthy.

Whole Grains

Please notice it says “whole grains.” In fact, look for the word “whole” or 100% whole wheat or whole grain on the label. Examples would be whole grain bread or whole grain pasta. Good whole grain items would be: pasta, tortillas, bread, oatmeal, cereals, polenta, brown rice, quinoa, barley and pita.

Whole wheat bread dipped in olive oil is a tasty treat.

Healthy Oils

Mediterranean DietHealthy oils are a key ingredient In the Mediterranean diet. Replace butter with healthy fats – especially extra-virgin olive oil, which is excellent for cooking and on salads.

Other suggested oils are: canola, grape seed, sesame, and avocado oil. In the Mediterranean diet, the staple oil used is olive oil. Oils have lots of calories, so try to limit yourself to no more than three tablespoons per day.

Keep the oils in a cool, dark place so that they last longer.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are another group of healthy fats. You must be a little cautious with this group, they are calorie dense. Don’t go nuts with the nuts. Consume them in moderation or you will end up adding pounds you do not want.

A handful a day will provide our body with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Buy them in bulk and pack them in small snack bags – limiting yourself to one bag per day.

Almonds, cashews, flax, sunflower seeds, walnuts and pine nuts are all good choices.

Vegetables and Fruits

Fruits and Vegetables
Image by by Erdosain

These are nutrition-packed foods filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Always buy fresh, organic produce when it is available. Seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables should be eaten daily.

Frozen fruits and veggies are also fine as long as they are quick frozen with nothing added. Avoid canned vegetables, if possible. If you must use canned, be they are low sodium.

Vegetables – you have many choices:  All the green leafy vegetables, plus broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, celery, onions, radishes, tomatoes, squash, beets, mustard greens, avocados, green peppers, etc. Obviously, it is a long list!

Fruits are eaten in place of sweets on this diet. Recommended are: apples, cherries, dates, peaches, kiwi, mango, papaya, grapefruit, oranges, melons, and strawberries.  Again . . . buy organic if at all possible; or, you may be ingesting pesticides that are harmful to your body. If not organic, wash extremely well and peel if possible.

Yogurt and Cheese

Dairy is not a major focus on the diet. It is usually eaten in the form of yogurt and cheese.  Both are good options as a calcium source. Stay with whole natural cheeses and plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (need sweet, add a little honey).


Baked SalmonSeafood is heavily consumed in the Mediterranean region. Shrimp, salmon, cod, clams, tilapia, tuna, sardines, scallops and crab are excellent seafood choices and are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs are also eaten as a source of protein and a regular part of the diet. Chicken is also served on occasion.  Red meat is eaten rarely – so go very easy on this one.

Lentils and Beans

These are high in protein but low in fats and calories. You have many choices: lentils, chickpeas, clack beans, pinto beans and white beans.

Herbs and Spices

Use fresh or dried herbs and spices to season your food and enhance the flavors. You will not need to use salt or unhealthy fats to make your food tasty. Garlic, mint, cumin, coriander, parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro and pepper are good choices.

Don’t forget the garlic – a favorite in the Mediterranean Region.

Red Wine

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

I know this isn’t one of the categories – and is optional on the diet. But if you enjoy good red wine, a glass each evening is encouraged (one for women and no more than two for men).

That pretty much sums it up. The diet is primarily focused on fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and seafood with limited poultry and practically no red meat plus minimal sweets – all good reasons why it is so healthy.

Shop wisely and ENJOY!

Prevent Inflammation with the Mediterranean Diet

Danger of Inflammation

The Free Medical Dictionary describes inflammation as:

A localized protective response elicited by injury or destruction of tissues which serves to destroy, dilute, or wall off both the injurious agent and the injured tissue. The class signs of inflammation are heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function.

Inflammation Tablet in Doctor's Office
Image by tashatuvango

Unfortunately, millions of people suffer from inflammation without realizing it. Even people in their early forties blame the constant aches and pains in their bodies and joints on getting older, which is absurd.

Causes of Inflammation

The reality is that many of those aches and pains are the result of their diet.  Most of the inflammation they are experiencing comes from the foods they put into the bodies without any concern for how it may be affecting their health.

The food manufacturers have changed the average diet so dramatically over the past 50 years that it is frightening.  They have gradually managed to convince us that they know what is best for us to eat and we have succumbed to their strategy.

We accept the extreme processing of foods for convenience, colour, flavour, and taste as perfectly acceptable without a moment’s consideration of whether we should be eating the foods, or not.

We rarely take the time to think about the foods we eat – foods that are filled with processed sugars and flour, preservatives, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, etc. – all of which are incredibly bad for the human body.

We have become human guinea pigs for the food industry. They continuously introduce new foods with no idea of the side effects. Nor, do they seem to care if they are any adverse effects as long as the foods sell and make a profit.

It is time to stop this horrible trend. There is a price to be paid and it will be in the general health of the population.  In fact, many are already paying.  There are more serious health problems today than ever before and inflammation is only the beginning of the problem.

Inflammation may sound relatively harmless, but can and often does lead to numerous serious and life-threatening diseases.  Inflammation is the common link between such debilitating conditions as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

Body Ecology believes that one of the main causes of inflammation is low-grade bacterial, viral, and fungal infections in the bloodstream and organs like the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract.

They also list other causes of inflammation as:

  • Chronic low-grade food allergies or food sensitivities that may cause few symptoms.
  • An imbalance of bacteria and fungi in your gastrointestinal tract, also known as symbiosis. This causes your immune system to overreact to bacteria in your gut and can be without notable symptoms.
  • Stress! Constant psychological, emotional or physical stress raises the level of cortisol, creating inflammation.
  • Environmental toxicity from our air, water, food pollutants and toxic metals like mercury and lead all contribute to inflammation and have been linked to diseases as varied as endometriosis and cancer.
  • Diet and lifestyle: too much fat, sugar, and protein in your diet, constant dehydration, consumption of too many sodas or caffeine, inactivity, and lack of sleep can all increase inflammation in your body

When you suffer from any type of ongoing inflammation in your body, your immune system can become overburdened. The inflammatory triggers are cycled continuously through your blood where they affect nerves, organs, connective tissues, joints, and muscles.

As a result, we are quickly becoming a world in crisis. Diabetes is running rampant across all ages. Heart disease is on the rise, and we are nearing a pandemic of obesity in children, teens, and adults.

Mediterranean Diet Can Help

The Mediterranean Diet is a way of life. It is not a fad diet created by a doctor or nutritionist that will reach celebrity status like the Atkins or Paleo Diets. It is much lower key. In fact, it is more of a healthy eating plan than a diet. It is filled with wonderfully delicious foods that are actually good for you.

Because of all the extreme fad diets that have come and gone over the past decade, when most people think of healthy food, they picture tasteless dishes that you must force down, rather than enjoy.

That description does not fit the Mediterranean Diet in any way. The foods are not only tasty; they are also great for your health and do not create inflammation in your body.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The average daily diet today has been essentially stripped of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and includes an excess of Omega -6 Fatty Acids, which come from vegetables such as corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, as well as poultry and eggs. The fatty acid balance needs to be restored.

The more omega-3 fat you eat; the less omega-6 will be available to the tissues to produce inflammation. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 is neutral. The Mediterranean diet includes generous amounts of fish and olive oil – both rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Mediterranean DietThe Mediterranean diet uses olive oil as its primary oil. There is no use of unhealthy hydrogenated oils which wreak havoc in our bodies. The primary meat is fish with the consumption of red meat and poultry at a minimum; which limits the intake of unhealthy saturated fat that also aggravates the body.

Eating fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds is essential in the Mediterranean diet. This is quite the opposite of the idea that a bottle of processed apple juice is an adequate serving of fruit each day. What people do not realize is that fruit juices are essentially sugar, water, artificial flavouring and preservatives that contribute to inflammation, which will drive you to the doctor rather than keep him away.

A basic premise of the diet is to eat natural foods – as close to nature as possible. Eat fresh, raw fruits (well-washed).  Also eat large quantities of fresh vegetables, raw or lightly steamed or quickly sautéed in olive oil and a little garlic.

The biggest benefit of the Mediterranean Diet is that those miserable aches and pains will begin to diminish and your overall well-being will improve.  And, you will start losing weight more easily.

Of course, you must eat all things in moderation and exercise daily  to ensure weight loss.  Even the healthiest diet can make you fat if you overeat. When you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Moderation is the key.

When you eat healthy as this diet allows you to do, the toxins are slowly and naturally eliminated from your body.  The pounds begin to fall away, the aches and pains will lessen, and you will become more fit – especially if you exercise regularly.

With a healthy diet, new toxins are not continually introduced through the foods you eat and you can enjoy the result of a relatively pain free life.

Make the choice today to switch your way of eating to the Mediterranean way and say goodbye to aches and pains and hello to a happier, healthier life.  It’s about time.



Why Choose the Mediterranean Diet

Why choose the Mediterranean Diet? The answer is quite simple. You eat lots of fruits and vegetables with olive oil and feta cheese, plus red wine, hard cheese, salads, garlic, nuts and seeds, plus lots of fish. What can be better than that?

Explaining the Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

If you are unfamiliar with this diet, it may seem completely counter-intuitive when you think about dieting for weight loss.

Of course, eating fruits, vegetables and lots of salad, even fish makes sense; but how can adding fats (even healthy fats) and wine help you lose weight?  Also, when you read about the diet, there are no restrictions in quantities of food that you can eat.  Strange . . . right?

Let’s take a closer look to see exactly how this diet works.

The Origin

Unlike most of the popular (or fad) diets that are rampant on the Internet and through all types of media, the Mediterranean Diet was not created to sell a book or to make the author famous.

It is simply a natural diet eaten by people who live in Mediterranean countries. That alone makes it far more appealing than an extreme fad diet created by some unknown doctor, nutritionist, or health “expert” with specific (sometimes unusual) recommendations or restrictions that most of them include.

I love this quote from the NIH (National Institute of Health), “Mediterranean tradition offers a cuisine rich in colours, aromas and memories, which support the taste and the spirit of those who live in harmony with nature.”

Unfortunately, for some time, there were many who did not consider this a healthy diet primarily because of the olive oil and the wine, which are major components of the diet.  It wasn’t until some of the “experts” began studying statistics regarding the health of people who lived in the regions where the diet originated.

They quickly found the population had longer lifespans and a much lower incidence of  heart disease, diabetes and cancer!

The Science behind the Phenomenon

What is really going on?  It is not so strange when you take a close look. First – people in the Mediterranean enjoy eating more than most Western cultures like the U.S. and the U.K.

Sadly, the Western cultures see  preparation of meals and the necessity of eating are seen as more of an inconvenience than something to enjoy.  The majority of us eat to live – to fuel our bodies, nothing more.

We eat quickly with no thought about what we are eating – much of it extremely unhealthy. We eat large quantities of  junk food like Big Gulps, candy, cookies, potato chips . . . anything that can be purchased, opened, and gobbled, or chugged down.

It is no wonder so many people have serious health problems and that as a society we are on the verge of a pandemic of obesity

Delicious, Nutritious Food

In direct contrast to the way many Americans eat, the people of the Mediterranean region enjoy eating. They take the time to create and savour delicious dishes made from fresh fruits, vegetables, lots of fish and delicious cheese – cooked or topped with olive oil (not butter) and served with whole grain bread and red wine. That sounds like a great way to live!

It spite of what we have heard for years, fats are not bad for us. In fact, our bodies need some fat and healthy fats are good for us. When they are eaten with fruits and vegetables they actually help absorb the nutrients more easily.

When people embrace the Mediterranean way of eating, they learn to eat natural foods that strengthen and nourish their bodies – and – they learn to truly appreciate what they are eating. More time is taken to prepare and serve the food and it is eaten with much greater relish – all of which has a huge impact on health and well-being.

To me, it sounds like something everyone should incorporate into their lifestyle!  I challenge you to give it a try very soon. You have nothing to lose (except weight) and everything to gain

The Mediterranean Diet Controversery

I love the Mediterranean Diet. With all the fad diets whirling around the Internet, it is easy to get confused. This is one diet that you do not have to worry about. It does not require changing your eating habits to any kind of extreme, starving yourself for long stretches, or making dramatic lifestyle changes.

In fact, the Mediterranean Diet is not only one of the safest and healthiest ways to eat, it is practical, as well.  Basically, all it requires is eating a healthier, natural diet and enjoying the food you are eating.

It is a way of slowing down, developing a healthy relationship with food, and appreciating food. The diet is time-tested because people in many parts of the world have been eating this type of diet for centuries.

And yet . . . in spite of all those powerful points, there is still some controversy about the diet, which I want to address and dispel today (if at all possible).

Inclusion of Fats

Mediterranean Diet
Image by AngelSimon

Sounds surprising – and yes, the Mediterranean Diet does not shy away from “healthy” fats, even though that is out of the ordinary for most diets. In fact, many of the recipes are prepared with large amounts of olive oil or with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Your first instinct may be to question how that could possibly be healthy. We have heard from the experts for years that fat creates bad cholesterol and leads to heart disease and weight gain.

Fat does contain more calories per gram (9 to be exact – verses 4 grams in carbs or protein). BUT . . . the upside is that fat releases energy much slower, which keeps you feeling full longer and alleviates the craving for sugar and the damage that sugar causes in your body, such as the risk of diabetes.

Regions of the world where this diet is prevalent has a much lower incidence of diabetes among the population.

Another fact you may not know is that fat does not actually cause high cholesterol or heart disease. Recent studies have looked at this theory and found just the opposite.  Healthy fats lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve the good cholesterol (HDL).

Fat also has other direct health benefits. It increases testosterone, which leads to greater physical strength and weight loss; and, it also enhances nutrient absorption that is important for a healthy brain.

Inclusion of Wine

In addition to the unusual inclusion of fats, wine and carbs are also part of the Mediterranean Diet. If you have been paying attention

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

to articles about carbohydrates, you are probably aware that carbs provide a sudden sugar hit, which some of the experts have declared as very bad. There is some truth to that information, but it is tempered by the types of carbs eaten, plus the overall diet consumed.

The Mediterranean Diet contains fewer simple carbs than most typical Western diets. The emphasis is on “natural foods” and the avoidance of processed foods that are filled with additives, high sugar and high unhealthy fat content – foods such as prepared meals, chocolate, candy, sodas and highly-caffeinated drinks.

The emphasis of the diet is to stop thinking of food as something you inhale on the run – grabbing the most convenient items available. The goal is for you to actually start eating regular, planned meals of healthy foods that will dramatically improve your over-all health.

But . . . what about the wine? Over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages of any kind is not a good thing. But, alcohol in small quantities has been shown to actually increase the human lifespan – especially red wine, which contains the all-important ‘resveratrol’ for strengthening the mitochondria.

The key words in the above paragraph are – taken in “small quantities.” This is not permission to “drink all you want.”

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

To sum it all up in the words of Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, a certified doctor of natural medicine:

Considered by many nutrition experts to be one of the most heart-healthy ways of eating there is, the base of the Mediterranean diet is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods and built upon plant-based foods and healthy fats.

Based on much research, this particular diet can protect against the development of heart disease, metabolic complications, depression, cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The best part is, even with all of these benefits, it still provides the opportunity for people to “eat, drink and be merry.”

Read his entire article for the 8 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

Image by tepic
Image by tepic

If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your food, the Mediterranean Diet is a choice I encourage you to explore. 



The Hanukkah Miracle – Celebrate in Good Health

Celebrate the Hanukkah Miracle and Good Health with Olive Oil

Image by AngelSimon
Image by AngelSimon

During Hanukkah we remember the miracle of the menorah, when one small flask of olive oil burned for eight days. One way to honor and celebrate this miracle is to use olive oil in many of the dishes that are prepared

It is common knowledge today that  olive oil is not only a delicious way to celebrate Hanukkah, it is also one of the healthiest oils available for cooking. Let’s take a look at this special oil to learn more.

What is Olive Oil

Simply stated, olive oil is derived from olives. It can be consumed without any processing at all; just pressed from the olive. If you took a handful of olives and squeezed them, you would get olive oil. No other vegetable oil can claim that distinction. In its most natural form, olive oil is resplendent in flavor and nutrition.

Of course, refining the process has created many other varieties of olive oil. We have listed some general categories of olive oil, but each category will also contain other variations. Here are the basics you would find in a grocery store:

  • Extra Virgin – This oil is from the first pressing of the olives and is not processed or refined, and is probably unfiltered. You will notice a very ‘olive’ taste and a rich color.
  • Virgin – This olive oil would be from the second pressing and is most likely filtered, and may be somewhat processed.
  • Pure – You will find this oil to have less flavor and will be lighter in color since it has been through more filtering and refining. If you don’t want an olive taste to your olive oil, this is probably what you would want to use.
  • Extra Light – This category encompasses a great deal of processing, refining, and blending. You will find most olive oil with this label to be a mix of highly processed olive oil and a vegetable oil. Some people like this variety for cooking.

Now that you are familiar with the varieties of olive oil, let’s take a look at some of the health benefits. This may give you even more reason to olive oil in celebration of Hanukkah.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

All olive oil contains those desirable mono-unsaturated omega-9 fatty acids and are rich in antioxidants. However, if you want the greatest boost of antioxidants, choose extra virgin olive oil. This is the oil that is from the first pressing of the olives so it is loaded with the most concentrated amounts of phyto-nutrients, which are known for having anti-inflammatory properties.

Olive oil has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) while raising HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). This benefit helps protect against heart disease by regulating cholesterol levels. In addition, further studies show the mono-unsaturated fatty acid of olive oil also helps lower blood pressure. Extra virgin olive oil provides high concentrations of vitamin E and beta-carotene, keeping the circulatory system healthy and pumping strong.

Although studies regarding the role of olive oil in reducing cancer are inconclusive, there are interesting data. Research has shown some effects of reducing risks in the development of cancers of the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and breasts when subjects use olive oil routinely in their diet. These regular olive oil eaters are compared to non-olive oil eaters and people who more often consume saturated fat and butter. There could be other risk factors involved so the results of the studies are still mixed, although promising.

Other benefits associated with consuming olive oil include naturally healing stomach ulcers, gastritis, and other digestive tract disorders. Still more studies are starting to uncover a possible connection between olive oil consumption and improved blood calcium levels. This could point to the eventual link between overall bone health and olive oil consumption.

Still more research has provoked interest in the link between cognitive health and the use of olive oil. In older adults, both visual and verbal responses improved after the subjects increased their olive oil intake aggressively throughout the day. Laboratory research is also being done which is showing increased cognitive activity when animals are fed olive oil. The ability to protect the brain during times of stress may be one of the most amazing benefits this delicious oil has to offer.

Which brings us back to Hanukkah and the tradition of olive oil. The health benefits of olive oil are so expansive, it is hard to believe that the use of olive oil during Hanukkah ever strayed so far from what most of us would consider healthy foods.

Now we have the wisdom to know better! You do not have to indulge in fat soaked donuts and latkes to celebrate the miracle of the oil. Instead, pay homage to the true miracle – the olive oil that has been revered through the ages is the same olive oil that is today known as one of the healthiest foods for your body, which is even more reason to celebrate.

Happy Hanukkah!