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Dr. Zorba Paster: A Mediterranean Diet cookbook makes a great gift

I do like this season, for the season. Certainly not for the darkness, because I’m a light-challenged kind of guy. When I can’t walk my dog, Izzy, after I get home from work, I wilt.

I find myself thinking of my mom these days. She was a cosmetologist at a working women’s department store in Chicago, Wieboldt’s. She loved it. And she loved packing up lipstick, cover-up and perfume, then passing it out to all of my cousins and her girlfriends (her word).

So following her tradition, I’ll pack up some gift-giving suggestions – but mine will be for healthy gifts. Let’s start with what to cook, and to do that we need to go over the king of eating: the Mediterranean diet.

To review: The strong scientific evidence in support of the Mediterranean diet comes from a 7,500-patient-strong, five-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The conclusion was, and I quote, “Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.”

There was, in fact, a 30 percent reduction in heart attacks – that’s a wow. By the way, the “supplemented” mentioned here meant 4 ounces of olive oil a day, or a handful of tree nuts such as walnuts, cashews or pistachios. Peanuts are a legume and not technically a nut. They are part of the Mediterranean diet but not part of the nut supplementation in the study.

So, with this study in mind, why not learn how to cook better, tastier food? And there’s no better way to learn than by thumbing through a cookbook on this topic. Or take one of my suggestions:

1. “Idiot’s Guides: The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook”: This is a good place to start – but do not confuse this with the “Mediterranean Diet for Dummies,” which I find quite inferior. The “Idiot’s Guides” cookbook teaches you what’s involved in this superb way of eating, how to make good choices and what to avoid when you’re cooking. 

2. “The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners”: I like this one because it has a fine seven-day meal-planning guide with easy-to-follow recipes. It also has useful tips for shopping and cooking.

3. “The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health”: This book is for the more advanced cook who is used to cooking with lots of fresh food.

And while we’re on the topic of fresh food, why not “share” for the holidays? That is, give the gift of a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, full or partial share. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, nofany.org, has a list of Western New York CSAs under its “Organic Farming” tab.

This great gift will bring you or someone you love weeks and weeks of great eating when the ground thaws. It’s a great accompaniment to any cookbook.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a physician, professor, author and broadcast journalist. He hosts a radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7; email him at zorba@wpr.org.