How would you like to improve your health just by what you put on your plate? Of course, most doctors prefer medication for the essential benefits of reducing the risk of diabetes, preventing heart attacks and strokes, or delaying dementia. However, compelling evidence shows that a traditional Mediterranean diet equals drugs for these critical health issues. The Mediterranean diet also has an excellent reputation for helping people live a longer, healthier life. I’ve advocated the Mediterranean Diet and the Food Combining Diet for years. While they are similar regarding both diets’ lists of acceptable foods to consume, the Mediterranean Diet has more convincing studies. This Mediterranean Diet Sofrito Recipe is not only heart-healthy — it’s also incredibly delicious!
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is distinguished by reasonable amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits, minimal amounts of red meat and dairy products, less-fatty fish, and the use of extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil as the primary fat. People who eat more plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, and nuts) have higher levels of urinary polyphenols. Polyphenols are reducing agents and, together with other dietary lowering agents, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, referred to as antioxidants, protect the body’s tissues against oxidative stress and associated pathologies such as cancers, coronary heart disease, and inflammation. When people consume more fish, blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids tend to rise.
How can you get the health benefits for yourself from using the Mediterranean Diet? Research has consistently shown that the Mediterranean diet effectively reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality. A study of nearly 26,000 women found that those who followed this type of diet had a 25% less chance of developing cardiovascular disease over the course of 12 years.
- A good amount of the fat in the Mediterranean Diet is monounsaturated, from olive oil or nuts.
- The basis of the diet is primarily fresh vegetables and fruits.
- The diet allows plenty of beans, peas, and lentils.
- Bread or cereal products in the diet are mostly whole grain.
- Dairy products are limited.
- Meat is rare, but less-fatty fish shows up on the menu often.
- Choosing purified water as the primary daily beverage, but allowing a moderate intake of wine with meals, about one to two glasses a day for men and one glass a day for women.
- Stressing daily physical activity through enjoyable activities.
One interesting finding of this eating plan is that it dispels the myth that people with or at risk for heart disease must eat a low-fat diet. Although it does matter which types of fats are chosen, the percentage of calories from fat is less of an issue. The PREDIMED study, a primary prevention trial including thousands of people with diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease, found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts and without any fat and calorie restrictions reduced death rates from stroke by roughly 30%. Most dietary fats were healthy fats, such as fatty fish, olive oil, and nuts. Still, total fat intake was generous at 39-42% of total daily calories, much higher than the 20-35% fat guideline as stated by the Institute of Medicine. Also reduced was the risk of type 2 diabetes in the PREDIMED trial.
What Is Sofrito?
A traditional Spanish vegetable base referenced in cookbooks since the 1300s, sofrito is a foundation for many other dishes. Sofrito has a long history as part of the Mediterranean Diet. Sofrito is chocked full of flavor and makes a fantastic base for sauces, stews, and other dishes. The combined flavors result from the way the ingredients are prepared — they are cooked in extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil to release the flavors. Many cuisines around the world use this technique.
Different Mediterranean cuisines have their versions of sofrito. For instance, tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and onion is the traditional Spanish version with all ingredients cooked in extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil. Portugal calls this delicious base refogado — it is a bit different with the inclusion of bay leaves. One Italian version used primarily in Tuscany is called soffrito and includes carrots, onions, celery, and olive oil. There is also a version popular with the Sephardic Jews in the Eastern Mediterranean. The French prepare a Mirepoix — often cooked in butter rather than olive oil — and some Italians cook with a Battuto vegetable base.
What are the Health Benefits of Sofrito?
The Sofrito Recipe below is a delicious and nutrient-packed recipe that includes Mediterranean Diet ingredients that can significantly improve your health. The benefits of eating sofrito were demonstrated in a 2013 study at The University of Barcelona which evaluated various compounds in sofrito. Sofrito was found to contain substances essential to preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease. The sofrito recipe used in this study included tomatoes, onion, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Forty types of polyphenols, known to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, were found in the sofrito. Carotenoids, a bioactive compound that studies have shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, were also present.
Mediterranean Diet Sofrito Recipe
8 1/2 organic garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
4 1/3 cups organic onions, finely chopped
3/4 tsp organic dried thyme
3/4 tsp organic dried rosemary
1/2 dried organic bay leaf
8 oz pureed fresh organic tomatoes or organic canned tomato puree
1/2 tsp sea salt
One large (8-ounce/225g) organic green pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced.
One large (8-ounce/225g) organic red pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced.
Put the garlic into a tall jar or beaker, then process to a paste using a hand-held blender.
Put a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the garlic until browned.
Meanwhile, process the onion in the blender. Add to the pan with the garlic. (If using green and red peppers, add them here)
Lower the heat, add the herbs, then fry, frequently stirring, until the onion has browned.
Add four-fifths of the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining tomato, cook for 30 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
Be sure to remove the bay leaf.
The sauce will keep for five days in the fridge or six months in the freezer.
Basic Recipe From The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià by Ferran Adrià, (C) © 2011 Phaidon Press.
How to Enjoy Sofrito
One of the best ways to enjoy sofrito’s health benefits is to eat it daily. To avoid chopping pungent onions and cooking sofrito every day, you can choose to prepare a large batch and freeze it in meal-appropriate portions.
You can also batch-cook sofrito, which lends itself to many applications: pizza toppings, a base for stews, soups, and sauces; add more tomatoes and a little organic chicken stock to make a delicious tomato soup; combine sofrito with chickpeas and Indian spices for a nice curry. You can also grate a tiny amount of fresh ginger into the sauce, blend until smooth.
Healthy Sofrito Pizza Recipe
1 cup Mediterranean Diet Sofrito
Pizza veggie toppings (see below)
1 CauliflowerPizza crust – 10 to 14 oz.
8 oz – 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Prebake Cauliflower Pizza crust.
Sautee the veggies just until they begin to soften. Season with garlic, salt, and basil. Remove the veggies from heat and set them aside. Veggies to use include onions, tomatoes, olives, spinach, bell peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms, etc.
Spread 1 cup of Mediterranean Diet Sofrito evenly on pizza crust
Place shredded mozzarella cheese over the sofrito.
Place sauteed veggies on the pizza.
Bake pizza for 18-20 minutes or until the crust is golden and cheese has melted.
Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Mantzoros CS, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Mediterranean diet and incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke in women. Circulation. 2009 Mar 3;119(8):1093-100.
Lopez-Garcia E, Rodriguez-Artalejo F, Li TY, Fung TT, Li S, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Hu FB. The Mediterranean-style dietary pattern and mortality among men and women with cardiovascular disease. AJCN. 2013 Oct 30;99(1):172-
Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Fiol M, Lapetra J, Lamuela-Raventos RM. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. New England Journal of Medicine. 2018 Jun 13. [Note: reference updated in June 2018 due to retraction and republication]
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