Guest Blog: The Mediterranean “Diet”

by Meri Raffetto, RD

If you’ve thought about trying a Mediterranean style of eating now is the right time to dive in! A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine significantly links diet with a decrease in heart disease for high risk individuals.

In short the study observed over 7,400 individuals who had increased risk of heart disease over 5 years. The participants were either assigned a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and a traditional westernized low fat diet. Over 5 years they found the folks using either of the Mediterranean style diets had a 30% reduction in cardiac events. Exciting news since many experts in the past believed if you fell into a high risk category, lifestyle changes like diet may not be as effective. It’s exciting to see science supporting the idea that diet is indeed effective even for those who have a significant family history of heart disease.

Eating Mediterranean isn’t really a “diet” at all, which is the really good news. You won’t have to sacrifice flavor and delicious foods here. Instead it involves consuming more seafood, olive oil, nuts and picking up your game on fruits and vegetables. The traditional Mediterranean diet is based on rural areas of Southern Italy and Crete, not necessarily today but 60 years ago. These folks lived mostly by what they could grow and fish from the sea and creative plant-based dishes took center stage.

The simple tomato often represents everything you think of when you conjure up thoughts of Mediterranean cuisine. Although tomatoes aren’t native to Europe, they have been a staple for hundreds of years. Tomato sauce was of course used frequently as well as simple, hearty ways to include tomatoes as a main part of the meal.

Try this recipe for a heart healthy tomato dish that provides a beautiful presentation to your plate!

Chick and Tom stew MD

Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Plum Tomatoes

Prep time: 12 min     Cook Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes     Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken thighs
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 (14.5oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 large can (28oz) plum tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
¼ cup red lentils
½ cup long grain rice
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup cilantro, chopped


1 In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken thighs and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Add the onion, celery, spices, and chickpeas and cook for 3 minutes to heat spices.

2 Pour in the tomatoes and chicken stock and then add in the lentils and rice. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

3 Stir in the lemon juice and divide stew into 6 bowls. Garnish each bowl with 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro and serve.

Per serving: Calories 346 (From Fat 82); Fat 9g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 38mg; Sodium 721mg; Carbohydrate 47g (Dietary Fiber 6g); Protein 22g.


Recipe from The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, Nov 2011

5 more heart healthy recipes!


meriraffettoMeri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian, author of the Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies® and coauthor of Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies®, Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies®, Restaurant Calorie Counter for Dummies®, and Calorie Counter Journal for Dummies®. To learn more about Meri visit her blog at