THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
Author: Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos
Macmillan Australia RRP $34.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
It’s fitting that I should review this book after visiting the Good Food and Wine Show in Perth (although, after sampling food all day, I was a bit ‘over it’). Eating well is one of the joys of my life and my husband and I both have a love for Mediterranean-style food, so reviewing a book that detailed the positive health effects of the Mediterranean Diet made sense. As the one who loves cooking, I wanted to read it; as one who loves eating my cooking, my husband was also keen.
Here’s what we knew already: the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most respected and prescribed diets in the world, with multiple positive health effects. Here’s what we didn’t know: its health effects have been rigorously tested for more than 60 years, and the results are incontrovertible. The diet is as effective as drugs in treating heart and diabetes, and can prevent both conditions. It aids weight loss, promotes longevity and slows the progress of Alzheimer’s. Wow.
Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos has spent her working life researching the diet. The Mediterranean Diet is her first book for a general audience, and this book has been written with Australians in mind, since that is her home base. Her Greek heritage is evident in the recipes – apparently there are about 30 different types of Mediterranean diets – and she says this version is considered the ‘archetypal Mediterranean diet’. The Cretan/Greek version has a focus on olive oil, leafy greens, eggs, fruit and nuts, legumes, fermented dairy products (yoghurt and feta), seafood, a small amount of red meat and a miniscule amount of sugar. Sounds good to me!
The book contains 80 beautifully photographed recipes, eating plans and nutritional advice, as well as sharing the evidence as to why this remains the world’s most effective diet for long-term health outcomes and weight management. The evidence part interested Blue Eyes the most, while I went straight for the recipes, taking mental notes for future cooking. There’s a good range of recipes, from soups, starters and ‘little bites’ to main meals and sweet treats, each one with a handy nutrition composition chart. I think red capsicum and feta dip, spanakopitakia (little cheese and spinach pies), zucchini patties and mince and rice stuffed capsicums will be just a few of the additions to our menu. The Fab Four will probably shy away from the vegetables, but I already know they love the pastitsio! The recipe layout is simple, with easy-to-follow instructions. The only thing I would have liked added are tips on which recipes can be made ahead and frozen.
Back to the eating plans and research aspect – the book looks at the diet’s affordability and includes helpful tips on increasing affordability (such as using vegetables in season); it explores the diet’s many proven health benefits in detail; it includes a number of eating plans including weight-loss and chronic disease prevention plans; and it gives advice on putting the diet into practice. It’s very well done and I think a lot of people will appreciate the effort that’s gone into it. It’s also attractively laid out.
Would I switch to a full Mediterranean diet? I think the Fab Four would protest on accounts that there are “too many vegetables”, but health-wise I do think we could benefit from a more Mediterranean diet (more legumes, smaller meat portions, more yoghurt). I already do incorporate a lot of the Mediterranean Diet principles in our general eating, but at least for myself and Blue Eyes, I am convinced that I can do more.
Available from good bookstores and Pan Macmillan Australia. This copy was courtesy of Pan Macmillan.