Category Archives: dry beans

Ten Basic Rules for Following the Mediterranean Diet

Still Life with Mackerels, Lemons and Tomatoes – Vincent van Gogh, 1886

Obesity is one of the world’s top health problems and the problem is growing worse each year. We, believe it or not, are in control of what we eat. No one is force-feeding us. Because the Mediterranean diet is both healthy and flavorful, it is possible to lose weight and control our weight without being deprived of delicious comfort foods.

As we northern hemisphere populations are entering our short, dark, winter days of the year during which people often put on some extra pounds, let’s take a look at the simple guidelines for following the Mediterranean Diet. Following this diet is not expensive, and the cooking required by it is simple. It allows for a great amount of flexibility and customization, too.

This diet also fits the smart adage “everything in moderation”. And don’t forget that the bottom line for the success of any diet is the portion size.

Keep yourself moving, too, and Bon appétit!


1. Meals should be primarily vegetarian and include whole grains, legumes such as cooked dry beans, peas, or lentils, and vegetables. Use lots of herbs and seasonings for flavor.

2. Eat fruits and vegetables every day, several times a day. Good choices are tomatoes, grapes, broccoli, olives, spinach, eggplant, beans, peppers, and berries. Try to eat fresh, local, in season, or from your own garden. Include fermented olives and capers.

3. For dietary fat, use olive oil. Use it on breads, vegetables, and for cooking. Nuts are also good, especially walnuts.

4. Eat whole grains daily such as whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, oats, brown rice, and couscous.

5. Fish should be eaten a few times a week, especially oily fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon, trout, herring and sardines.

6. Dairy should only be eaten about once a week. Eat cheese and yogurt occasionally. Eggs should be limited to four per week.

7. Red Meat should be eaten only once every week or two, in a small portion size about equal to a deck of playing cards. Small portions of poultry, lamb or pork can also be eaten once a week, or so.

8. Dessert should be eaten only once a week. Ideas for fruit as dessert include broiled grapefruit with brown sugar, pears with honey, or baked apples with brown sugar and raisins.

9. A glass of red wine with one meal each day is fine. Drink plenty of water.

10. One of the healthy lifestyle secrets of the Mediterranean is to do moderate movement throughout the day such as noble work like sweeping the floor, gardening, or hanging out laundry, and walking or biking instead of driving to do errands and visit friends and family. Frequent social interactions and connections are also important, including dining with friends, family, and neighbors.


This diet is a heart healthy diet and its environmental impacts are gentler on the land.

Longevity and Diet and Lifestyle

Island of Ikaria. Photo source: Flickr CC via ForsterFoto

From time to time, we’ve all read and marveled at those reports of isolated pockets around the globe where people tend to have greater than normal longevity. Such regions include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. Studies have been done to observe what in the lives of these longer lived humans are different and healthier than elsewhere.

Napping, not caring about time, drinking red wine, eating fresh greens and colorful fruits, having a strong support system, eating legumes and fish instead of red meat, keeping mildly active all day long, and not eating much processed food or sugar — those are some of the items that make the list by those who have studied these regions.

Longevity Graphic source: Wikipedia.

The recent NYTs magazine article, The Island Where People Forget to Die focuses on the Greek island of Ikaria and what is unique about these people that makes them live longer. I found the article fascinating and I hope that I can entice each reader here to read it, if you haven’t already.

Ikaria is a 98 square-mile island of Greece and has a population of just over 8,000 people. If you read about the lifestyle of these long lived island dwellers, you might become jealous, like I did, because it sounds pretty great to live near the sea in a Mediterranean climate, get up late in the morning ignoring time, have leisurely lunches including a couple glasses of wine each day with long time friends and family followed by an afternoon nap, and then do some gardening before a light evening meal.

Garden greens at market. Photo source: Flickr CC via futureshape.

These Ikarians might have wine for breakfast along with goat’s milk, sage tea or coffee, honey and bread. Their average lunch includes lentil or garbanzo beans, potatoes, greens, and seasonal vegetables from the garden. Dinner is light and simple — bread and goat’s milk. The Christmas and Easter holidays are the time to eat meat, which is the family pig.

Ikarians like their home-made herbal teas. They use rosemary, dandelion, mint, marjoram and sage for making “mountain tea” and they use honey as medicine — to treat wounds, influenza, and hangovers. Old people start their day with a spoonful of honey.

Honey. Photo source: Flickr CC via Siona Karen.

Polyphenols are antioxidants found in red wine, and they are also found in the herbs commonly used in Ikaria. These herbs also act as mild diuretics which may serve as life-long blood pressure reducers for the people ingesting them. In addition, “Wild mint fights gingivitis and gastrointestinal disorders; rosemary is used as a remedy for gout; artemisia is thought to improve blood circulation.” Wine, so prevalent in their diets, also helps the body absorb antioxidant flavonoids.

View of Agios Kirykos, Ikaria’s capital. Photo source: wikipedia

In summary, Ikarians eat a Mediterranean diet. They eat a lot of olive oil and vegetables, plus goats milk but little additional dairy or meat products, and moderate amounts of wine. They eat mostly homegrown potatoes, garbanzo, black-eyed peas and lentil beans, wild greens, and locally produced honey. They do not eat processed foods and their own garden grown greens most likely have more nutrients and fewer pesticides.

All in all, the people of Ikaria eat about six times as many legume beans as we Americans do. Legumes are a super-food, high in protein, with a low glycemic index. They eat fish twice a week and meat about five times a month. They drink two to three cups of coffee a day and have about a quarter the amount of sugar that Americans do, on average.

But this is not all about diet. They get plenty of fresh air and sunshine all year long. They live a leisurely lifestyle but are active, climbing hills to go about their daily activities, and their social support network is extensive.

Fish, Greece. Photo source: Flickr CC via santanartist.

It is possible that these global pockets of longer lived populations include favorable genetics, as we attribute genes to being a huge factor in health and disease. But more recent studies are showing that genes can be turned on and off and altered by our eating and lifestyle choices. Just as carcinogens and toxins can cause genetic mutations in negative ways, exercise can alter DNA in a positive way, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables has recently been shown to change a gene variant for heart disease. The NYTs article about Ikaria also states that napping three times a week reduces coronary heart disease by 37 percent. Phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, contain antioxidants that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors and help prevent cancer and other diseases. Food is medicine!

Keeping mildly active all day long is important. While gardening isn’t a lot of aerobic exercise, compared to sitting at a computer desk it is quite a bit of activity. We are reminded in headlines repeatedly that sitting for lengths of time as little as two or three hours will shorten our lives. Worse yet, we can’t cancel out the damage done from sitting, even through a strenuous hour of exercise each day. Could this be why farmers and serious gardeners are often long lived?

This post would not be complete without trying to imagine what today’s agricultural system would look like if the world’s population ate the Mediterranean diet. In doing so, I can envision a much healthier natural world, in addition to its healthier human inhabitants. We could maintain natural habitats with controlled goat or sheep populations, healthy honeybees, local gardens, grow lots of dried beans for protein, grains for bread, orchards, olive groves for oil, and wineries. There would be plenty of arable farmland due to the reduction in livestock production. We might need soybeans for fish farming and aquaculture. A limited number of pigs could forage, live in woodlands, and eat scraps once again. We’d know where our food comes from because each of us would help bring our meals to the table. In the process, we’d be more active and connected with the people and the earth around us.

Dry Bean Prices Rise as Production Falls

U.S. dry bean markets find themselves in relatively unfamiliar territory as prices continue to reach for the sky in reaction to a small 2011 crop, strong prices for other field crops, and moderate demand. The October 2011 U.S. dry bean production estimate was trimmed to 19.6 million hundredweight (cwt)—down 38 percent from a year earlier and the smallest crop since 2004’s weather-shortened crop. Although yield is projected to be up 1 percent to 17.44 cwt, harvested area for the 2011 dry bean crop is currently expected to be 1.12 million acres — the lowest since 1921. Harvested area is expected to be lower than a year earlier for each of the 18 States included in the estimate, with industry leader, North Dakota, down 52 percent.

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Also see: Dry Edible Bean Production Has Dropped Sharply