Oils, herbs and spices from Mediterranean countries such as Greece have proven to be not only flavorful and nutritious, but having a lot of health benefits. Olive oils and grape seed oils are high in omega-3, 6 and 9. Rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme area a few most recognized herbs of this region. Spices of this region include cumin, paprika, saffron, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, juniper berries, majoram, nutmeg, onion, tumeric and garlic, the main stay in mediterranean cuisine. The Mediterranean Diet combines these oils, herbs and spices creating a blend that assists with weight control and disease prevention.
The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels. (1-3)
Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil’s protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs. Consequently, it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation.
EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed.
Olive oil is clearly one of the good oils, one of the healing fats. Most people do quite well with it since it does not upset the critical omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and most of the fatty acids in olive oil are actually an omega-9 oil which is monounsaturated. Spanish researchers have found that including olive oil in your diet may prevent colon cancer.
Like olive oil, grape seed oil may guard against some cancers and impotence. Grapeseed oil contains a high level of antioxidants, including vitamin E. It’s known to reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol), while raising HDL (the good cholesterol). This helps to keep arteries clear. From lowering cholesterol to reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Top chefs are now cooking with grape seed oil because of its amazing effect on enhancing the natural flavours of food. Grape seed oil’s light neutral flavor won’t mask or clash with your other foods. It’s high smoke point makes it perfect for your grilling or sauteing as well as for salad dressings.
Combining the various herbs and spices with one or both of these oils provides additional synergistic health benefits. The above list of herbs and spices strengthens the immune system to ward off both bacterial and viral attacks on the body. Creating marinades for meats and dressings for salads and steamed vegetables is an easy and economical way to stay healthy while providing nutritious and flavorful dishes that everyone can enjoy.
In a previous blog I wrote about, “Eating Your Peas and Quinoa” which creates a wonderful high protein and gluten-free meal. The recipe can be further enhanced by steaming the peas (black-eyed, green garden and snow) after marinating with olive and grape seed oils that have been infused with different combinations of the above herbs and spices depending on what your taste dictates for that particular day. Altering the combinations will allow your dishes to be different avoiding monotony.
If you plan to grill vegetables or meats, I recommend using rosemary in the marinade or dressing as it protects the foods by preventing the attachment of harmful cancer causing carcinogens generated from the burning of charcoals.
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