The Taste Of The Mediterranean

Creating a life that is positively good for you...

Ten great ingredients to have around...

  1. Olive oil
  2. Garlic – fresh or “lazy"
  3. Chilli – fresh or “lazy”
  4. Dried herbs and spices – ginger, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper...
  5. Fresh herbs – from the windowsill or fridge
  6. Honey
  7. Balsamic vinegar
  8. Nuts and seeds
  9. Tomato puree
  10. Lemon juice

Why these ten ingredients?

These ingredients are common in the Mediterranean Diet, yet widely available in our shops and supermarkets...

Combining these ingredients together in various ways can create fabulous tasting dressings, grilling or roasting glazes for marinades, sauces, dips for lean meat, fish or vegetable dishes. Nuts, seeds and honey can also mix with fruit and low fat yoghurt for a healthy start to the day.

There is some evidence that;

Olive oil contains compounds which maintain a healthy heart and reduces cholesterol

Garlic may possess qualities which enhance the immune system and which reduce the risk of blood clots

Chili, dried contains antioxidants which may protect the body from harmful chemicals

Honey – the natural sweetener may have antimicrobial properties

Balsamic vinegar can reduce the glycaemic index of foods, reducing the fast “dumping” of sugars from carbohydrates..

Nuts and seeds are rich in antioxidants, minerals and natural oils

Tomato puree or tinned tomatoes contain lycopenes and add flavour and texture to foods

Lemon juice also reduces glycaemic index and is a great source of vitamin C



Olive oil is at the heart of the Mediterranean Diet. The beneficial health properties are increasingly understood. Not only are the monounsaturates good for lipid profiles, but also there are micronutrients present such as vitamin E, stanols (which are the active ingredents in yellow fatty spreads which are desgined to reduce cholesterol) and also powerful polyphenol antioxidants which protect our bodies from the harmful effects of oxidation which can result in heart disease.

Are all olive oils the same?

Well, No! the polyphenol levels in olive oils vary greatly. They are present in extravirgin olive oils, rather than in low quality processed olive oils. And even Extravirgin oils vary in their polyphenolic content.

This depends on the olive variety, the method of harvesting and pressing, the climate and other factors. The content (measured in mg/kg) of polyphenols can vary by as much as ten to fifteen percent from year to year, and is defined as high if the concentrations are in excess of 250mg/kg. Average Extravirgin olive oils contain polyphenols in concentrations of about 180-200mg/kg.

Recently the European Food Standards Agency has accepted that high polyphenolic olive oils can actively promote their health benefits.

So far it is difficult to fully appreciate the polyphenolic content of EVOOs, but it is generally the "peppery" oils which contain good amounts of polyphenols for health. The Greek Koreneiki olive tends to be high in antioxidants, as are some good Italian varieties, and yet the Spanish Arbequina variety is notoriously low in these substances.

The mass produced EVOOs, particularly where oils are blended from various parts of the World, are less likely to have measurably consistent levels of polyphenols, and it is fascinating to observe that the more natural, arrid areas with lower yields have a tendency to produce high antioxidant oils - probably a consequence of a tree in harsh conditions needing to protect its fruit from oxidation and thus concentrating the antioxidants which in turn benefit us...

So, the advice is to buy a good quality EVOO, preferably from a single estate where natural, artisan methods of production are used to produce really high quality oils...

For further information, read Tom Mueller's book "extravirginity; the sublime and scandalous world of olive oil" - a thoroughly fascinating journey of discovery!