Fresh Fridays

March 6, 2015
Vol. VII No. 5
In This Issue
Low Sodium Mediterranean Diet

It's a dilemma. You want to cut back on sodium, but you want your food to be lively and flavorful, not bland. Luckily, the Mediterranean Diet is here to help!

Sodium intake is a big problem in the U.S.: fewer than 15 percent of Americans meet the government's dietary recommendation of consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium -- less than a teaspoon of salt -- per day. Consuming too much salt can lead to a number of health problems, including hypertension, or high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease.

 A widely-cited study by the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Research Group found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in salt -- such as the Mediterranean Diet -- can substantially lower blood pressure.

Read on to find out how the Mediterranean Diet can reduce your sodium intake.
Plant-based and Wholesome
Most of the salt in a typical Western diet comes from processed convenience foods.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "77 percent of a person's salt intake comes from restaurant or processed food; only 6 percent is added at the table and only 5 percent during cooking."
Food companies add sodium to their products to enhance flavor, preserve freshness, and improve texture and appearance. Some products, such as sliced bread, cereal, and cake mixes, don't even taste salty but contain a surprising amount of sodium.

The Mediterranean Diet is all about cooking and eating wholesome, minimally-processed foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains make up the majority of the diet, leaving little room for high-sodium processed foods. Using quality, seasonal ingredients also reduces the need to add salt to enhance flavor; these foods are flavorful enough on their own.

Just because the Mediterranean Diet contains far fewer processed foods doesn't mean it isn't convenient. Fruits and vegetables are often eaten raw or cooked briefly, and many pasta dishes, salads, and soups are made with just a few ingredients.

Flavor from Fresh Herbs and Spices
A legitimate concern about switching to a plant-based, minimally-processed diet is that flavor will be sacrificed in the name of health. Conversely, the Mediterranean Diet is both healthy and flavorful. Aside from utilizing quality, whole ingredients, it relies heavily on fresh herbs and spices for flavor. When a scientific panel updated the  Oldways Mediterranean Diet Pyramid  in 2008, they added herbs and spices, because they add flavor and regional identity while offering health properties of their own. There is less of a need to use salt when spices such as cumin, coriander, and cloves are available to enhance taste. Fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, and mint are also common in Mediterranean cooking, along with herb-spice blends like zatar, because of the flavor and color they contribute.

Cooking Equals Control
Although many Mediterranean meals can now be found in grocery stores and restaurants outside of the region, cooking your own meals is the best way to lower your sodium intake. Remember, as the chart above shows, more than three-quarters of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods and restaurant meals. We recognize the huge positive impact cooking has on health here at Oldways, and one of our goals is to make cooking Mediterranean food simple and fun. Get tips and shortcuts for making delicious, easy meals fit seamlessly in your busy life on our website.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe.
This refreshing dessert recipe (also great for breakfast or a snack) can be doubled or cut in half, depending on whether you're feeding a crowd or enjoying your own company.

Recipe, photo, and content courtesy of Bard Valley Natural Delights.
Ferda Erdinc, who owns Istanbul's Zencefil restaurant taught Ana how to make this traditional Turkish specialty. Serve it with fish or as one of many mezze (appetizers) before a meal.

Recipe from the book Spice - Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, by Ana Sortun, published by Regan Books/Harper Collins; photo courtesy of Oldways.
The "melted" eggplant adds a wonderful texture and takes on the flavor of the peas and other ingredients. This is a very versatile recipe and can be modified by changing the broth, vegetables, and/or herb and spice selection. Or, add meat, fish, or poultry, if desired.

Recipe courtesy of Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, in The Oldways Table; content and photo courtesy of Oldways.

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



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This month-long promotional campaign, created in 2009 by Oldways and the Mediterranean Foods Alliance, generates awareness of the delicious foods and amazing health benefits associated with the Mediterranean Diet and its vibrant lifestyle through media, supermarkets, health professionals and social networking.

For more information, visit Med Diet Month.

by Ana Sortun
In this gorgeously photographed book, Sortun shows readers how to use her philosophy of spices to create wonderful dishes in their own homes. She reveals how the artful use of spices and herbs rather than fat and cream is key to the full, rich flavors of Mediterranean cuisine -- and to the way it leaves you feeling satisfied afterward.

For anyone with hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes -- and the millions of Americans whose high salt intake puts them at risk of developing these conditions --You Won't Believe It's Salt-Free offers 125 delicious no-salt recipes that take family dinners from monotonous to mouth-watering. Culinary expert Robyn Webb reveals her secret: simple spice blends that anyone can buy or make at home, plus recipes that use exotic aromatics like kaffir lime leaves and star anise to create bold, beautiful flavors.

by American Heart Association 
Everyone can benefit from a lower sodium diet: Millions of Americans (including 97 percent of children) consume far more sodium than they need, averaging about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, or seven times what the body needs to function. To help you achieve the Association's recommended daily sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams, Eat Less Salt gives you realistic strategies for cutting back on sodium gradually.