Study: Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease risk

5:57 PM, Feb 25, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - If your diet is heavy on olive oil, nuts and vegetables, you're doing your body good, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study suggests the Mediterranean diet can cut the chance of suffering heart related problems by one-third.

Christos Greek Restaurant in Minneapolis serves up the "good for you" cuisine of the Mediterranean.

 Customer Mara Deboe, who was eating salmon and asparagus for lunch on Monday, said with a smile, "It makes me feel good and I don't fall asleep after lunch when I get back to the office."

 The food at Christos Greek Restaurant is a recreation of what owner Gus Parpas grew up with in Cyprus.

"We ate a lot of legumes, a lot of salads, some seafood, very, very little meats," Parpas said,

The study says a Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease and stroke risk by 30 percent when compared to a low-fat American diet.

In the study, participants ate four tablespoons of olive oil a day, specifically extra virgin olive oil, which has more heart healthy compounds.

Instead of red meat, they ate chicken. They also ate fish three times or more a week. They consumed very little dairy, but ate plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Dan Buettner has researched what he calls Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live longest.

He said of the study, "What worked is that they didn't tell people exactly what they had to eat. They gave them general guidelines so people could customize it in a way that they might keep eating it for a long time, which I think is really the key."

Buettner said the study, which also found nuts to be as healthy as olive oil, confirms what he's found in his research.

"People who eat just a handful of nuts five times a week are living two to three years longer than people who don't eat nuts," he said.

 So he says try some Mediterranean dishes.

 If you're not sure if you can switch from burgers and fries to beans and fish, he said all foods are an acquired taste. He recommends trying a food eight times before you decide. 

Customer Lauren Germscheid said she doesn't need convincing. 

"It tastes good so you don't even have to really worry about the benefits of it.  It's just an added bonus I guess," she said.

Christos Greek Restaurant has shared a couple of their tasty Mediterranean recipes with us.

LENTIL-SPINACH SOUP

INGREDIENTS:
10 CUPS VEGETABLE STOCK
2 CUPS DICED YELLOW ONION
3 CLOVES OF GARLIC, PEELED, FINELY DICED
3 TBSP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 LB GREEN LENTILS
2 LB FRESH SPINACH, STEMMED, WASHED, AND CUT INTO THIN STRIPS
2 TBSP FRESH LEMON JUICE
2 TSP FRESH-GROUND BLACK PEPPER
SALT TO TASTE

DIRECTIONS:
In medium soup pot, sautee diced onions and garlic in olive oil until transparent (but not brown).
Add vegetable stock, bring to boil.
Stir in lentils.
Cook at medium heat for a total of 40 minutes, adding in spinach 10 minute before removing from heat.
Finish with black pepper and lemon, balancing these two flavors to taste. 

KOTA STO PHYLLO

INGREDIENTS
4 five-ounce chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
2 lb fresh spinach
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
5 leeks, roots and tough outer leaves removed; diced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 lb kasseri cheese, shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
12 sheets phyllo dough
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Filling Preparation:
Wash and stem spinach; drain thoroughly; cut into 1/4 inch lengths.
In large skillet, heat oil.
Add onions, leeks, garlic and dill; sauté until lightly browned and fragrant (2-3 minutes).
Add spinach and continue to sauté until all moisture has evaporated.
Season with salt and pepper.
Let sauté mix cool completely. Add eggs and cheese; mix thoroughly by hand.

Chicken Preparation:
Pound chicken breasts out to flatten; season with salt and pepper

Assembly:
Create three-ounce balls out of the finished filling mix and set aside.
Lay pounded chicken breast down and place a ball of filling over it.
Roll chicken breast around the filling; set aside.
Lay one sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface.
Brush the phyllo lightly with melted butter working from the edge towards the center.
Lay a second sheet of phyllo over the first, again buttering lightly. Repeat a third time.
Lay a roll of chicken breast with filling at the center of each phyllo half.
Fold the ends over the chicken; then fold in the sides and tightly roll the ball away from you.
Brush the roll lightly with butter and place it seam-side down on an ungreased baking sheet.
Repeat the process until the batch of filling is used up.

Cooking:
Bake on baking sheet, at least an inch apart, in preheated oven at 400 degrees until golden (25-30 minutes).
Use plunge thermometer to insure 155 degree temperature at core, or cut one in half and insure chicken is done

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