COVID-19 may have upended any vacation plans you had to visit the sunny Mediterranean, but you should still consider adopting the culinary habits of this part of the world. A team of researchers from Sweden set out to investigate how a Mediterranean-style diet could affect all-cause mortality—especially, fatal cardiovascular events—among people with a higher body mass index.

The study, published in PLOS Medicine, gleaned data from more than 79,000 Swedish adults and discovered that individuals classified as overweight who adhered closely to the Mediterranean-influenced diet did not have a higher mortality risk than those in the healthy-weight group with the same diet preferences. So it appears that aspects of the Med diet may counter some of the negative health effects of being overweight.

Individuals with a healthy weight but low adherence to the Med diet had higher mortality rates than people in the same weight range who regularly followed this style of eating. The researchers also determined that cardiovascular disease mortality associated with high BMI decreased with adherence to the diet, although the effect was not fully countered.

The Mediterranean diet centers mainly around plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains. The diet also includes moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, eggs and seafood, while red meat typically plays a much smaller role than in the standard American diet. That makes this Mediterranean-inspired dish a heart-healthy option for taco night.

 

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 t Italian seasoning

1/4 t salt

1/4 t black pepper

1 C cherry tomatoes, halved

1 C cucumber

1/2 C red onion

1/3 C sliced kalamata olives

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 T balsamic vinegar

2 T tahini

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 t cumin powder

1 garlic clove, grated or minced

3/4 C prepared hummus

8 tortillas, warmed

1/2 C crumbled feta

1/3 C parsley

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir together Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Rub mixture onto chicken. Place chicken on a greased baking sheet and roast until meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 F, about 20 minutes. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes and then slice. In a bowl, toss together tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and jalapeno. Stir in balsamic vinegar. In a small bowl, whisk together tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. To serve, spread hummus on tortillas and top with chicken and tomato mixture. Drizzle on tahini sauce. Sprinkle on feta and parsley.

See also: Recipe for Health: Mediterranean Lentil Sandwiches