Meals to Warm (and Protect) the Heart

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables—both of which are high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Adhering to a Mediterranean Diet not only ensures that you’ll be enjoying more produce; it also ensures that you’ll be making heart-healthier choices when it comes to eating grains and fats.


Mono and polyunsaturated fats are heart-healthy fats commonly found in avocados, nuts, olive oil and sunflower oils, among others. The Mediterranean diet features these oils or foods instead of traditional saturated fat sources such as butter or heavy cream—which contain fats that can increase cholesterol and lead to heart disease. Cooking with olive oil in place of butter and choosing snacks like nuts and nut butters helps you to avoid high saturated fats or processed foods.


Healthy fats, fruits and veggies aren’t the only tenets of the diet that will benefit your heart. Beef is often a staple of the typical American diet—but it contains higher amounts of saturated fat than other types of meat. The Mediterranean diet places a strong emphasis on fish, many of which are high in omega-3 fats, another type of “healthy” fat.  In addition, the use of herbs and spices in Mediterranean cooking helps keep the addition of sodium low. Too much salt in your diet can lead to hypertension and high cholesterol—risk factors for heart disease.


The recipes below follow the foundations of the Mediterranean diet to provide not only heart-healthy nourishment but also seasonal warmth as we move into the colder months.


Walnut pesto with roasted vegetables

 Grilled vegetables

Serves about 10


Roasted vegetables

2 zucchini, sliced

2 eggplant, cubed

2 red peppers, chopped

3 onions, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil



4 cups fresh basil

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Set oven to 425 degrees F. Place chopped vegetables in large rectangular baking pan and toss with olive oil. Roast for about 40 minutes or until tender. Set aside.


Make pesto by combining basil, olive oil, water, nuts and garlic. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. If the mixture is not coming together, add an additional tablespoon of water. Add the cheese and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.


Toss roasted vegetables with pesto and serve warm.


Total calories: 150

Total fat: 12 gm

Saturated fat: 1 gm

Total Cholesterol: 2 mg

Sodium: 40 mg

Total Carbohydrate: 9 gm

Total fiber: 5 gm

Sugar: 2 gm

Protein: 3 gm


Mediterranean Salmon with tomato and capers iStock_salmon


Serves 4


1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp fresh basil

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary

4 salmon fillets, about 3 oz each

2 tomatoes, diced

2 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed


Preheat broiler

Mix tomato and capers in a bowl and set aside.

Mix olive oil, garlic, basil and rosemary in a bowl. Coat each fillet of salmon in this mixture and then place in baking dish.  Broil salmon for about 7 minutes on one side, then turn. Top with tomato and caper mixture and return to broiler for another 7 minutes or until easily flaked with a fork.


Total calories: 240

Total fat: 15 gm

Saturated fat: 2.5 gm

Total Cholesterol: 70 mg

Sodium: 200 mg

Total Carbohydrate: 3 gm

Total fiber: 2 gm

Sugar: 0 gm

Protein: 20 gm


Colorful Lentil Saladshutterstock_117501727_lentilsalad


Serves 6


1 cup dried brown lentils

1 cup green bell peppers, diced

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup red onions, diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Pepper to taste

3 Tbsp fresh parsley


Combine lentils, peppers, carrots and onions in a pan with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Make dressing by whisking together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder and pepper to taste. Pour over lentils and vegetables. Top with fresh parsley and serve warm, or chill for a cold salad.


Total calories: 180

Total fat: 5 gm

Saturated fat: 1 gm

Total Cholesterol: 0 mg

Sodium: 15 mg

Total Carbohydrate: 25 gm

Total fiber: 11 gm

Sugar: 5 gm

Protein: 9 gm