5 Cooking Tips to Spice Up Your Mediterranean Meals

Jan 11, 2022

If you have high cholesterol and blood pressure, your doctor has probably advised you to start following a healthy diet as part of your treatment plan. The Mediterranean diet is always recommended when it comes to heart health. The good news is that delighting your taste buds while sticking to a Mediterranean diet meal plan is easy — and many of the foods you enjoy most likely aren’t off limits. 

Healthy herbs and spices lend robust and savory flavor, hearty nuts add texture and a buttery taste, and teas infuse a bright flavor and antioxidants.

 These choices are part of a healthy lifestyle that may reduce your risk for heart conditions like high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke down the road.

1. Add Flavor, Texture, and Zest with Heart-Healthy Ingredients

The human palate is wired to be attracted to the flavors of salt and fat. Because so much of the modern Western convenience diet uses these ingredients for seasoning — in favor of other spices and herbs — we are naturally inclined to seek out foods made with salt and fat more often.

f you’re new to cooking with herbs and spices, he recommends starting with basic flavor profiles, like basil, oregano, and thyme. Crushed smoked chili peppers, garlic, and cilantro lend a Mexican or South American flair, while coriander, ginger, and pepper evoke sweet and spicy flavors from Asia. If you enjoy the particular taste and texture of a dish the next time you dine out, ask the staff or chef to share its flavoring ingredients with you.

Try new cuisines and experiment with recipes at home to help you create a go-to list of your favorite seasonings. “Add crushed, smoked chili to zing up the most basic Mediterranean dish. The possibilities are not only endless, but infinitely delicious.

 2. Choose Veggie Dishes to Complement Your Main Dish

Nothing ruins a good meal like a boring, uninspired side dish. Think of your vegetables as the supporting cast of your meat, fish, legume, or poultry main. A perfectly cooked wild-caught salmon doesn’t taste as great when you pair it with a bland side of Brussels sprouts.

“For most people — including a lot of chefs — vegetables mean side dishes, and side dishes are often an afterthought. Put as much preparation, planning, and thought into your side dish as you do for your main,”  

When shopping at the grocery store or local farmer’s market, he likes to pick out seasonal fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits are widely available in the winter and make a great addition to salads, dressings, and sauces. Hearty root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, winter squash, parsnips, kale, beets, and turnips, are also in season during the colder months and lend a sweet and nutty flavor to entrées.  

3. Make Your Own Savory Soup Stock

Broth is the foundation of any soup or sauce, so it’s important to load it up with as many nutrients as possible. Making your own stock is so much easier than you think that you’ll never go back to using the boxed version. If you buy a bunch of carrots and celery, simply save the trimmings and start by throwing them in the stockpot (the same goes for kale ribs and broccoli stalks). Then add water, use herbs and spices to limit salt, and toss in some leftover lemon rind for a boost of sumptuous flavor.

To make a chicken stock out of this vegetarian version, we recommend cutting leftover chicken into quarters (two breasts and two thigh-and-leg pieces) and throwing them and the carcass (without any skin) into the pot of vegetable stock. “One of the most important things is not only the economical use of all the bits you’d probably throw away, but also the fat, tremendous amounts of salt, and other sodium-containing compounds that you didn’t include.”

4. Incorporate Nuts to Add Satisfying Crunch and Heartiness

Not only do nuts make satisfying snacks, they also add a variety of flavors and textures to a dish. Studies have shown that some nuts, like almonds, pistachios, peanuts, and walnuts, can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure; raw or dry-roasted nuts are the heart-healthiest choices because they don’t include any added oils or unhealthy fats.

Many cuisines use nuts as a staple ingredient in their recipes. For example, you’ll find peanuts in sauces or seasonings in many Chinese, Thai, and African-inspired dishes. Macadamia nuts add a sensuous, buttery flavor to freshly prepared mahimahi, while almonds and walnuts have been traditionally used in many European and Mediterranean dishes. “You can get some very different and distinctive flavors by adding raw chopped or crushed nuts versus toasted as a final garnish," 

5. Get Cooking With Tea in Broths and Sauces

Maybe you enjoy a cup of tea in the morning for breakfast or before bed, but have you tried cooking with tea? The unique flavor characteristics of tea make it perfect for all types of cooking. The good news for your heart is that tea also offers powerful antioxidants that can help lower both bad cholesterol and blood pressure.

Green and black teas have been shown to be the most effective in promoting heart health since they contain the most beneficial properties. Tea can be used as a base for a broth or sauce, or as the liquid for poaching or steaming. "In the summertime, consider keeping some iced tea (with or without a little honey) in the refrigerator instead of sugary or artificially flavored soft drinks.”

To Sum It Up

A Mediterranean diet can be great for people who are overweight, diabetic or looking to improve their metabolic health. Adding spices can help improve your overall health situation.

And, as with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and stick with it in the long term.

That being said, few things are as well proven in nutrition as the powerful health and weight loss benefits of a Mediterranean diet.

By the way if you like this and you are serious getting into the Mediterranean diet.

Try the 21-Day Mediterranean Diet challenge

It will give you a no brainer approach to start the Mediterranean diet in the easiest way possible.

From breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All the recipes and meals will have you covered. 

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