Mediterranean Goodness- Oven Baked Vegetable Casseroles
What three things do you associate with the word “Mediterranean“? I myself immediately think of a bottle of olive oil, vegetables and sunny, warm weather.
The countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea have become well known for their supposedly healthy eating habits. But what’s the evidence? Diet advocating more vegetables is a good start. However, not every diet advocating vegetables is a healthy diet. Vegetables and fruits won’t make up for the side effects of animal products and fat. Although the Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables, one of it’s key ingredients is olive oil. But hold on a second- isn’t olive oil a good heart protective oil, according to doctors, dieticians, nutrition advisory groups and the media? How can they possibly be all wrong? The following is a summary of some of the evidence that olive oil is NOT a healthy addition to your diet.
Olive oil contains significant amounts of saturated fats – 14%. It has less than 1% omega 3 oil giving it an unhealthy omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 13:1 (total dietary target 4:1). It is mostly omega 6 oil which has no benefit to humans other than calories. Olive oil is a poor source of antioxidants (so called polyphenols) in comparison to whole plant foods.
Observations of the people of Crete after World War II found a low incidence of heart disease. The people there were physically active and their diet consisted of grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes and small amounts of olive oil, wine and fish. Fifty years later a follow up study found that those individuals who consumed the most olive oil had the most heart disease. A similar positive association between olive oil and heart disease has been found in other parts of Greece.
Various studies have been published on the effect of vegetable oils on the arterial blood flow. Olive oil reduced arterial blood flow by 31% and canola oil by 10% . It is thought that olive oil blocks the production of nitric oxide by the endothelium. Nitric oxide dilates arteries.
Here is renowned surgeon Dr Esselstyn’s evidenced based take on oils.
In the British Medical Journal the randomized Sydney Heart Study was updated, confirming that the addition of oils worsened the outlook for cardiovascular disease.
The epidemiologic ultimate confirmation of the power of plant based nutrition to prevent cardiovascular disease is best demonstrated in T. Colin Campbell’s China Study. In rural provinces in China over a three year period examination of over 250,000 death certificates, not one death was attributable to cardiovascular disease.
Take home message from the Mediterranean diet: eat lots of vegetables and fruits, reduce the amount of oils and exclude animal products like meat, fish and dairy (see my other posts on the strong association between animal protein and chronic diseases) . If you already have a preexisting cardiovascular disease, omit all oils and fats.
Finally, here are my plant-based casserole recipes- which are great for using whatever vegetables you can find in your fridge.
But, first, here are the basic steps to prepare these types of oven baked dishes :
- Get what ever vegetables you have and cube them, slice them, quarter them or cut them in roughly similar sized pieces and transfer them to a large baking tray
- Add a little bit of olive oil (just for taste and just a bit), salt and pepper and fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary etc) and mix well
- Add vegetable broth and rice if you like
- Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours
The best suited vegetables for these dishes are zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, green beans, bell pepper, onion, potatoes, pumpkin or carrots. As for the grains, if you want to add some, try brown rice or barley.
Here is the link to the recipes: