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Forum highlights the benefits of eating Mediterranean diet

February 08, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

The smells of garlic, onions and olive oil filled a large conference room at Robinwood Medical Center Thursday as a sold-out audience of 200 watched a chef prepare a Mediterranean cod recipe.

Fortunately, there were enough servings for everyone waiting at a buffet at the back of the room as soon as the demonstration was over.

The presentation, titled "Wisdom from the Heart: Heart Healthy Eating," was part of a women's health forum presented by Washington County Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation and Congestive Heart Failure programs and Women's Specialty Associates.

Researchers have found that people who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to die of heart disease, Tim Higgins, a dietitian at Robinwood Endocrinology, told the group. The diet, which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil and wine, is high in good fats and antioxidants, Higgins said.

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As Higgins discussed tips for choosing a good knife, chopping garlic and selecting spices, conference participants munched on fresh salads and dipped whole-grain bread in dishes of olive oil.

"The Mediterranean people used to say that butter was for the wild people up in the north and olive oil was much more refined," Higgins said.

Actually, olive oil's heart benefits come from the fact that it is rich in monounsaturated fats, which increases HDL, the "good" type of cholesterol that carries cholesterol away from the arteries, Higgins said.

As conference participants waited in line to sample the recipe, prepared by Dimensions Dining and Catering of Hagerstown, many said they planned to put what they learned to use at home.

"I'm hoping to learn how to cook like that," said Hazel Waggoner, 83, of Hagerstown, a heart patient who has undergone triple-bypass surgery. "I've been hearing a lot about Mediterranean cooking."

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