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Happy Heart's Mediterranean Recipes

Meals to Warm (and Protect) the Heart

Happy Heart

By Liz Moore, RD, LDN

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables - both of which are high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Adhering to a Mediterranean diet not only ensures that you'll be enjoying more produce; it also ensures that you'll be making heart-healthy choices when it comes to eating grains and fats.

Mono and polyunsaturated fats are heart-healthy fats commonly found in avocados, nuts, olive oil and sunflower oils, among others. The Mediterranean diet features these oils or foods instead of traditional saturated fat sources such as butter or heavy cream, which contain fats that can increase cholesterol and lead to heart disease. Cooking with olive oil in place of butter and choosing snacks like nuts and nut butters helps you to avoid high saturated fats or processed foods.

Healthy fats, fruits and veggies aren't the only tenets of the diet that will benefit your heart. Beef is often a staple of the typical American diet, but it contains higher amounts of saturated fat than other types of meat. The Mediterranean diet places a strong emphasis on fish, many of which are high in omega-3 fats, another type of "healthy" fat. In addition, the use of herbs and spices in Mediterranean cooking helps keep the addition of sodium low. Too much salt in your diet can lead to hypertension - a risk factor for heart disease.

The recipes below follow the foundations of the Mediterranean diet to provide not only heart-healthy nourishment but also seasonal warmth as we move into the colder months.

Walnut Pesto with Roasted Vegetables

Serves about 10


Roasted vegetables
2 zucchini, sliced
2 eggplants, cubed
2 red peppers, chopped
3 onions, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil

4 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Set oven to 425º. Place chopped vegetables in large rectangular baking pan and toss with olive oil. Roast for about 40 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

Make pesto by combining basil, olive oil, water, nuts and garlic in a blender or food processor. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. If the mixture is not coming together, add an additional tablespoon of water. Add the cheese and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

Toss roasted vegetables with pesto and serve warm.

Nutrition Facts: Total calories per serving: 150; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Total Cholesterol: 2 mg; Sodium: 40 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 9 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugar: 2 g; Protein: 3 g

Mediterranean Salmon with Tomato and Capers

salmonServes 4


1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh basil
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
4 salmon fillets, about 3 oz. each
2 tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed


Preheat broiler. Mix tomato and capers in a bowl and set aside.

Mix olive oil, garlic, basil and rosemary in a bowl. Coat each filet of salmon in this mixture and then place in baking dish. Broil salmon for about seven minutes on one side, then turn. Top with tomato and caper mixture and return to broiler for another seven minutes or until salmon is easily flaked with a fork.

Nutrition Facts: Total calories per serving: 240; Total fat: 15 g; Saturated fat: 2.5 g; Total Cholesterol: 70 mg; Sodium: 200 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 3 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 20 g

Colorful Lentil Salad

lentil saladServes 6


1 cup dried brown lentils
1 cup green bell peppers, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup red onions, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Pepper to taste
3 Tbsp fresh parsley


Combine lentils, peppers, carrots and onions in a pan with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Make dressing by whisking together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder and pepper. Pour over lentils and vegetables. Top with fresh parsley and serve warm, or chill for a cold salad.

Nutrition Facts: Total calories per serving: 180; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Total Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 15 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 25 g; Dietary Fiber: 11 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 9 g

Elisabeth (Liz) Moore, RD, LDN

Elisabeth (Liz) Moore, RD, LDN, is our resident guru in heart-healthy nutrition. She is a registered dietitian for BIDMC's CardioVascular Institute (CVI) and sees patients in BIDMC's outpatient nutrition clinic and the CVI's Cardiovascular Health and Lipid Center. Moore received her BS degree in human nutrition at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted October 2012