Beans, A Mediterranean Diet Staple, May Be the Secret to Lower Cholesterol Levels


A new a review of 26 studies from a group of Canadian and U.S. researchers found that consumption of beans also known as legumes, is associated with a significant reduction of LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol, it is the one that gathers at the blood vessels and potentially can cause narrowing of the arteries and eventually clots. HDL on the other hand is the good cholesterol that scavenges and removes the bad LDL cholesterol transporting it to the liver to reprocess it.

Now in this study, prominent researchers from the University of Toronto, Harvard University and McMaster University to name a few found that eating only a mere ¾ cup of beans (130 grams or 4.5 ounces) was associated with reduction of LDL cholesterol levels by 5%. That is significant. The researchers noted that they conducted this study because basically beans were not included in any heart health  guidelines or that there was not enough evidence.  Read more »

5 Ways to Eat More Vegetables The Greek Way


A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed that individuals who consumed 7 or more servings of vegetables a day had a reduced risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.

While we know that the traditional Greek diet was mostly vegetarian due to the religious fasts, but also to economic reasons, today Greeks have moved away from their traditional diet eating a more westernized diet, but surprisingly still consume plenty of vegetables. In fact, according to a 2010 OECD report, Greece has the highest consumption of vegetables per capita in Europe based on supply and production, however it is mostly older Greeks that still eat more vegetables. Here is how we do it: Read more »

Eat Like a Greek and You May Avoid a Stroke


Citrus is a very common ingredient in Greek cuisine. Particularly lemon. I’ve written this before, but I’ll say it again: Greeks add lemon everywhere: on meat, greens, salads, fish and sauces. Orange is added more commonly to sweets such as koulouroukia (cookies) and cakes especially the ones made with olive oil. But during the winter months you’ll see us here in Greece lugging large bags of oranges from the market, especially older people who still follow the traditional Greek diet (Mediterranean). People here ate fruit after meals and in the winter we always had an orange or mandarin as a dessert and as an afternoon snack with some herbal tea. Read more »

Salt and the Mediterranean Diet

salt and pepper

For many people particularly those with high blood pressure (hypertension), salt is a sensitive issue. The component of salt we worry about is sodium which makes up 40% of salt, the other 60% is Chloride. Now sodium is an essential nutrient for humans, we need it for many functions in our body. Most of us already consume more sodium than needed. Where does that sodium come from? Read more »

5 Ways to Instantly Make Your Pizza Healthier

Pizza healthy

Pizza is commonly considered junk food or fast food, something you should avoid generally. However, when we look at the popular and original pizzas from Italy what we see is basically dough (with no added fat ) with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese sometimes extra tomatoes and basil.

The pizza we often order otherwise is really some sort of westernized version of the real thing. For example in Chicago where I grew up we have this deep dish version which is literally a pie like crust filled with melted cheese and tomato sauce (and sometimes topped with sausage). It is delicious, but Mediterranean diet it is not. Read more »

Greek Nutritionists Should Promote the Greek Diet

greek salad

I have been writing about my experiences when making my yearly visit to the Food and Nutrition Conference organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (former American Dietetic Association) but what about what is going on right here in Greece?

Today is the first day of the yearly congress of the Hellenic Dietetic Association. Once again I am reminded of the disconnect that exists between the Mediterranean diet and Greeks and in particular nutrition and food professionals. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of Greece’s most popular chefs known for her Greek food also hosts a show that is called Oreo cookeing, with Oreo as a sponsor. How can this be?

At this nutrition congress there are a number of sessions related to the Greek diet but if we look at all the sponsors I only found one that produces something Greek: the Greek coffee company Loumidis. Read more »

Are we Practicing What we Preach? Study Shows Young People not Following the Mediterranean Diet.


That is what a recent Spanish study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is showing. According to the researchers, the elderly (over 62) were more likely to follow a Mediterranean style diet. Now it needs to be noted that this study was conducted in Spain, so in other words, a country that has the Mediterranean diet as its traditional diet. Previous studies have also shown that generally the older generations have a higher compliance to the diet. This comes as no surprise as there are several reasons the older generations continue to follow this pattern of eating: habit, tradition and way of of life to name a few. They grew up on this diet.

But this got me thinking: How do you get young people who live in the Mediterranean (such as Greece) to follow this diet? Here in Greece, everybody talks about how great the Mediterranean-Greek-Cretan diet is, Nutritionists, Chefs, TV Cooks all use buzzwords such as “healthy”, “Mediterranean”, “Greek”, but then they give us recipes and dishes that are not healthy or mediterranean or Greek. Read more »

Mediterranean Diet Inspired Products at the World’s Largest Food and Nutrition Conference-FNCE


Once again I attended the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (former American Dietetic Association). This is the world’s largest food and nutrition conference with 8000 attendees mostly Registered Dietitians and other nutrition professionals. Currently living in Greece, this conference is important for me as I can see nutrition trends in the U.S., but also see if and how the Mediterranean diet or parts of it are communicated to American nutrition professionals.

The conference is composed of various educational sessions as well as the exposition. Attendees have the opportunity to attend a variety of sessions based on their specialty or interests: international, clinical nutrition, culinary, public policy etc. I attended several sessions and some that are related to the Mediterranean diet. Although I did not clearly see any session that was devoted to the Mediterranean diet, which to be honest I thought there would be, considering all the attention the Predimed Study received (Spanish study that showed that a Mediterranean diet may be more protective than a low fat diet). Read more »

How to Use Olive Oil to Get the Most Benefits

olive oil in a pan

In the previous posts I shared some tips on how to buy and taste olive oil. But all that will not make any difference if you do not know how to use it correctly. So with this post I want to show how olive oil is used to get maximum benefits and taste.

1. Olive Oil is best used fresh. As I mentioned in previous posts, olives are fruit and olive oil is best when it is fresh. Best by dates usually are about 18 months to 2 years after harvest, but the truth is you should use your olive oil in a much shorter period than that. Ideally, use olive oil within one year of harvest. That is different though from once you open a bottle of olive oil. An open bottle of olive oil should be used within 3-6 months or less, so make sure you buy as much as you need for that period of time. Do not buy huge bottles that you will not use for months, remember air and time eventually will lead to loss of antioxidants and flavor. So make sure you use the olive oil in a fairly short time. If it is part of your regular diet you will not have a problem with storing as you will be using it regularly. Read more »

How to Buy Good Olive Oil

olive oil

In my previous post I shared some ways to figure out if the olive oil you are consuming is good. But what should you look for when buying olive oil in the first place?

Let’s say you are in a store to buy olive oil, here is what you need to look at:

1. Expiration date. If the bottle does not have an expiration date do not buy it. And better yet, it should have a harvest date. The reason for this is not that olive oil will go bad in the sense that perishable foods go bad, but that it is old. In my previous post I noted that old olive oil does not taste good and it does not have the health benefits of the fresh olive oil. The older the olive oil the less polyphenols it will have. You should look for an expiration date that is about a year and a half away. If you find that, then that means it has been harvested in the previous year. Usually the expiration date is about 1 ½ -2 years after harvest date. But that does not mean that you should be using it until that date. Ideally, and if you want to replicate what was being done in the traditional Mediterranean diet, you want to consume olive oil within 1 year of it’s harvest date. In other words use olive oil of that year’s harvest. Generally though you should use an open bottle of olive oil in a short period of time.

2. Harvest date. As I have mentioned before, the benefits of olive oil come mainly from the polyphenols and the content of polyphenols is dependent on a few factors and one of them is when the olives are harvested. Read more »