S is for Spanish: the Mediterranean Diet Part Three

peppersThere is more good news about the Mediterranean Diet. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer in March, and reported in the Telegraph showed that women who adhered most closely to the Mediterranean style of eating had a 40 per cent reduced risk of oestrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, which is one of the most deadly forms of the disease. The research tracked women aged between 55 and 69 for 20 years, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy eating habits of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – Spain, France, Italy and Greece. It is typically high in cereals, fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, low in red meat and moderate in dairy products, fish, poultry and wine. For more details, see the Mediterranean Diet Foundation.

For this instalment of the Mediterranean diet blog, we visit Spain. Spanish cooking contains three of my favourite healthy food choices – olives, peppers and tomatoes. Olives contain high amounts of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid which lowers cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. They are also packed with a wide range of phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, peppers and tomatoes are both rich in antioxidant carotenoids (the phytochemicals that give them their bright colours).

Gazpacho Smoothie

Make your smoothie into this classic, refreshing Spanish soup.
Serves two
400g cherry tomatoes
One cucumber
One red pepper
100g yoghurt
One tbsp. cider vinegar
One tbsp. flaxseed or olive oil

Whizz the above in a Nutribullet. Put in the fridge overnight. Add an ice cube to each serving and then serve with little bowls of diced cucumber, tomato, red and green pepper, red onion or shallots.

Rainbow Peppers

Padrón peppers are famous in Spain. Here, I combine this classic dish with stewed red, orange and yellow peppers.
Serves two
One red, one yellow and one orange pepper, halved and sliced into strips.
Three garlic cloves, crushed
One red chilli, diced
Jar or tub of sun dried tomatoes
One carton cherry tomatoes
One tub mixed olives
One tbsp. your favourite spice(s) – I use cinnamon and paprika
One tbsp. rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil and cook the peppers, chilli, garlic and spices for one minute so everything is covered in oil. Lower the heat and cook gently with the lid on the pan till the peppers are soft. Now add the tomatoes, turn up the heat and cook with the lid off until most of the liquid has evaporated. Eat hot or cold, alone as part of a Mediterranean buffet or as a topping for pasta (not Spanish, I know, but perhaps with a sprinkling of grated Manchego cheese to add an extra Spanish accent). If serving the peppers cold, try adding a slug of flaxseed oil for an omega-3 boost.

Vegetable Tortilla

A classic tortilla contains potatoes, but if you are looking for a no-carb version, use peppers, shallots/red onions, peas and asparagus with the eggs.
Serves two
Six eggs
One red pepper, diced
Two shallots/one red onion, diced
100g peas
100g asparagus
Olive or rapeseed oil

Fry the onions and peppers in the oil till soft. Cook the peas and asparagus, beat the eggs and mix. Add the egg mixture to the frying pan and, when it just starts to solidify at the edges, take the pan off the heat and place it under a medium grill. Cook until the omelette has solidified.

Coming next: M is for Mint

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