Part 4- Mastering the Mediterranean Diet : Herbs & Spices
The Mediterranean diet boasts many health benefits through its abundance of fresh whole foods and focus on plant foods, but did you know that even the way food is flavoured in the Mediterranean diet has extra health benefits! Just another reason to jump on board with the Mediterranean style of eating. In fact, herbs and spices are such an integral part of the Med Diet that they are now included on the base of the new Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to encourage people to include them daily in their diets.
Unlike other diets, which often focus on providing taste and flavour using salt or salt based sauces, the Mediterranean diet is abundantly adorned with herbs and spices to add rich flavours and aromas, replacing the need for added salt. Less added salt in the diet can help maintain a healthy blood pressure and prevent the risk of heart disease, making the Mediterranean style diet a perfect choice for someone already suffering from high blood pressure.
Now you don’t need to have high blood pressure to benefit from replacing salt with herbs and spices in your cooking. Herbs and spices are also packed full of natural antioxidants which are important for fighting harmful free radicals in the body. This can prevent premature ageing, cell damage and can even help prevent some cancers.
Common Mediterranean herbs and spices include basil, bay leaf, cloves, cumin, fennel, garlic, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme, just to name a few.
Different areas of the Mediterranean will use different combinations of herbs and spices to showcase their unique Mediterranean cuisines. For example, in Italy you may see more basil, sage, rosemary and thyme, however, across the ocean in Greece oregano, mint, dill and bay leaves may be more common.
If you are feeling adventurous why not try creating herb and spice combinations of your own and discover how much flavour you can add to your cooking without adding salt. Remember that different coloured herbs and spices provide different antioxidants, so at every meal and snack aim to make cooking colourful and full of flavours as a simple way to reap the health benefits.