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Mediterranean diet called ‘phooey’ but still supposed to improve heart health

A woman buys fruit at a market in Barcelona, Spain. Mediterranean diets have long been touted as heart-healthy, but that's based on observational studies. Now, one of the longest and most scientific tests suggests this style of eating can cut the chance of suffering heart-related problems, especially strokes, in older people at high risk of them. The study lasted five years and involved about 7,500 people in Spain. Results were published online Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 by the New England Journal of Medicine. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

“If I went on the Mediterranean diet, there is not a chance I would lose a pound,” said Seattle Kitchen host and chef Tom Douglas.

Tom, along with Chef in the Hat Thierry Rautureau and On-the-Go Katie O used a portion of this week’s Seattle Kitchen to debate the newest dieting trend.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts and replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil. It uses herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods and limits red meat to no more than a few times per month while eating fish and poultry at least twice a week. Oh, and if you so desire, you can drink red wine in moderation.

The diet has been emphasizing, even more than weight loss, it’s heart-healthiness. Tom read that it is supposed to reduce someone’s risk of heart attack or heart disease by at least 30 percent.

“To a certain degree they’re making a good point,” said Katie O. “But I think it’s a bunch of phooey.”

Katie O said that it can likely help improve your heart health by up to 30 percent, or help you lose weight, if you weren’t eating that healthy in the first place.

“If you were eating a bunch of processed foods, a ton of red meat and you went out all the time and you never cooked,” then yes, she admitted, you could certainly improve your health by 30 percent.

But Katie O already follows many of the tenets of the Mediterranean diet when she cooks at home, so she’s skeptical it would make much a difference for her.

For Thierry, however, it’s just as much about the lifestyle as it is about the food. You could tell in his voice that he’s imagining himself there while he talks about it.

“If you go living on the Mediterranean diet, living on the coast, your life is not as stressful as living in Seattle.” He said, “When you’re in the Mediterranean – the minute you come out of the boat or a car – suddenly your arms go down, you shoulders go down, something is going down, and I think that’s part of the diet.”

Tom is hesitant to reduce his meat intake as much as the diet recommends, but he did say that lamb is common, and suggested a meal of Provencal lamb with rosemary. Have some roasted potatoes on the side that you cook up with olive oil. But despite the instructions of the diet, Tom said you should still add a little duck fat – just for flavor.

Thierry instead recommends a seafood dish, with added flavors of fennel, rosemary, onions, garlic and olive oil. Grill it whole and have a salad on the side with cucumber, tomato, olives and more olive oil.

Seattle Kitchen can be heard on KIRO Radio Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. Available anytime ON DEMAND at

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