The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Table

Olive Oil

According to author Georgeanne Brennan, the secret ingredients of the Mediterranean table are olives, anchovies and capers. Her cookbook is titled Olives, Anchovies and Capers: The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Table. Those 3 ingredients, particularly olives for their oil, are indeed special. Now some of you may be thinking “Anchovies?! No thank you!” but please don’t stop reading yet! I’ll talk about them just a little, further in this post.

One of my clients asked me “what exactly is a Mediterranean diet”? I thought it was an excellent question and a concept I had taken for granted until then. It has sparked greater interest for me and believe it’s a worthy topic to expand upon!

Many people in the Mediterranean regions, such as Greece, Turkey, France, Morocco, Italy, and Spain, eat whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legume, dairy, extra virgin olive oil, spices and modest quantities of poultry, seafood and red meat, and some include red wine, known to include phytonutrients, such as resveratrol. I won’t address drinking alcohol here, but encourage you to speak with your doctor to determine if occasional and moderate alcohol consumption would be acceptable for your health.

It is a diet studied extensively for its healthful effects on cardiovascular disease (e.g. high blood pressure and high cholesterol), metabolic syndrome (e.g. high blood sugar, increased belly fat) and those with type 2 diabetes.

In a nutshell, some of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet include low glycemic impact, high fiber, good fats, high phytonutrients and great flavor. For me, that last one is essential!

The great thing about the 3 secret ingredients is that they can be kept in your pantry so you can always have them on hand. Take one or all three and mix up a quick sauce for any protein or vegetable, by adding olive oil and some acid (e.g. lemon juice, vinegar, wine), and creating a delicious punch to any dish.

One of my favorite recipes is tapenade, which is a thick purée using each of the three secret ingredients, blended with olive oil. You may omit the anchovies, but honestly, if you buy good quality, they magically meld into the sauce and will add depth of flavor. Adding some lemon or orange zest, dried figs, fresh parsley or thyme is also nice. Piccata sauce is another easy recipe with just 4 ingredients: capers, garlic, olive oil (and/or butter) and lemon juice. It adds great flavor on fish, poultry or vegetables.

If you have any of the health concerns above, or want to lose some weight, I encourage you to give the Mediterranean diet a try, and skip pasta, which is a processed food and best to avoid except for an occasional “treat”. Apply a 90/10 rule, where you eat healthy 90 percent of the time and enjoy whatever you want the other 10 percent. For example, if you eat 3 meals a day, it means for 2 meals in the week, you can treat yourself to eat what you want (within reason of course!).

If you would like additional help with changing your diet and improving your health, please contact me. I am happy to offer a free 30-minute consultation.

Written by Kim Baur. She is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach at