The Mediterranean lifestyle is characterized by a diet high in plant-based foods and monounsaturated fats, with plenty of regular physical activity. Thus, perhaps it should come as no real surprise that residents of this region live comparatively long lives that are relatively free of many of the chronic diseases that plague Western society.
Scientists have been studying eating and lifestyle patterns characteristic of the Mediterranean region for over 50 years, yielding some important take-aways for the rest of us!
According to cardiologist Arthur Agatston (and creator of the South Beach Diet), “A Mediterranean diet is high in fiber, which slows down digestion, preventing wild swings in blood sugar; reduces insulin resistance (a precursor of type 2 diabetes); and improves insulin sensitivity to reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes.”
And studies have, indeed, found that individuals following a Mediterranean diet have a significantly lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and reduced mortality from heart disease and cancer.
Fortunately, it’s easy to incorporate elements of Mediterranean-style eating into your plant-based diet! While some elements need to be veganized (like meats and cheeses), many other area already vegan-friendly.
Staples like olives, olive oil, hummus, pita, chickpeas, and leafy greens are great to add to your diet or use as the base for delicious Mediterranean meals! For more tips on incorporating elements of Mediterranean-style eating into your diet, check out dietitian Ginny Messina’s piece on The Vegan Mediterranean Diet.
We’ve put together nine of our favorite Greek and Mediterranean dishes below. If you have one you’d like to share, send it in!
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)
Recipe by Dimitra Shanahan: Chef at ImproV, Blogger at Veglite
For the phyllo dough:
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- lukewarm water enough to make a pliable dough
For the filling:
- 1/2 kg/1 pound spinach
- 4 spring onions
- 1 leek
- 1 bunch dill
- 1/4 cup rice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- Place all the dough ingredients in a big mixing bowl and knead well for about 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough in 4 equal size balls
- Cover them with plastic wrap and let them rest for an hour
- Finely chop and wash the spinach, onions, leek and dill. Drain them well, add the olive oil and salt and massage them for at least 5 minutes.
- Press the mixture with your hands to remove the excess water
- Flour a surface and using a wooden rolling pin open each dough ball into flat circles (as big and thin they can get)
- Brush a baking pan with olive oil and place the first phyllo at the bottom, brushing it with olive oil too. Place a second phyllo on top of the first one. Make sure that the phyllos are big enough for your baking pan as the edges must be hanging a bit outside the pan
- Spread the spinach filling and sprinkle with the rice
- Cover with the other two phyllos, brushing with olive oil
- Place the edges of the all phyllos together and press them at the edge of the top layer using olive oil so that the edge of the whole pie is nicely sealed
- Brush the top of the pie with olive oil and lightly cut the pie in portions, but without cutting down to the bottom
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for about 45 minutes, until the pie gets a nice golden brown color
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with few drops of water and let it cool a bit before serving