Review: The Mediterranean Diet for IBS

So I’ve been trying out the Mediterranean Diet for a few weeks now and want to share with you how I found it as an IBS sufferer.

But first, I want to share with you what I discovered when researching why the Mediterranean Diet is considered such a healthy diet. My ignorance was instantly realised when I had to go back to basics of what even counts as the Mediterranean, not realising that this was all the countries that border the Mediterranean sea (duh!). So this include countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, and many more. It became obvious that the Mediterranean diet is actually quite a loose term, and surely is only super healthy if done in a certain way. Dietitians now tend to understand this diet as the traditional Mediterranean way of eating, characterised by an abundance of fruit and vegetables, whole grain starchy carbs, fish and seafood instead of meat, and lots of healthy fats. While the health benefits of eating lots of fruit and veg are more obvious, there is still ongoing research into the health benefits of choosing certain types of fats over others. The Mediterranean diet is high in polyunsaturated (nuts, seeds and oily fish) and monounsaturated fats (olive oil). Switching out trans and saturated fats for these fats is now understood to lower blood sugar and cholesterol which in turn will reduce risk of heart disease.  Also, sourcing sugar through fructose instead of glucose is a much healthier way of eating, lowering blood sugar and reducing risk of diabetes.

When trying out cooking mediterranean-style I opted for a diet more reminiscent of Greek and Spanish food, instead of the traditional pasta/pizza cuisine of Italy, simply to encourage a lower-carb and also meat free approach to the diet. As you will see, I ate lots of olives and feta, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so!

However, I did experience some issues with the diet. At the start, I was snacking on foods high in healthy fats and having lunch which had no proper carbs in. I found this did not settle so well with my stomach, but that the discomfort eased off once I had some rice. I didn’t find too much online about this but after reading basic IBS diet tips, having a diet higher in carbs and lower in fats was one of them. I already knew that I couldn’t have too much fat in my diet, and I did tend to use less oil than the original recipes I took my meals from. However, I felt that I still could eat a descent amount of fat if I ate them with carbs as well. I admit I do not know the full science behind this, and have struggled to find online research about it. But perhaps it is just too much for the stomach to digest if you are consuming fats and proteins without diluting them or effectively lining your stomach with easily digestible carbs as well. This has now opened my eyes to the fact that many weight loss low-carb diets which are advertised all over the place simply wouldn’t be suitable for IBS sufferers. This is probably just another example though of how these quick weight loss diets are simply just not very good for our bodies.

Apart from this obstacle, the Mediterranean diet was great. It was yummy, filled me up, powered me with lots of energy and goodness from all the vegetables, and was not at all restricting. While many recipes I found online I had to avoid all together due to the core ingredient being beans, I found that it was generally quite easy to find a recipe that only needed a few adjustments.

I would highly recommend the Mediterranean diet for IBS sufferers and would also like to have a moment of appreciation for the friend I never realised was so good to me until now – the carb!

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers and Grilled Aubergine – IBS friendly

I have combined and adapted these two recipes from Olive magazine and Good to Know website: <http://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/healthy/grilled-aubergine-with-red-butterhead-and-salsa-verde&gt; ; <http://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/healthy/grilled-aubergine-with-red-butterhead-and-salsa-verde&gt;

This is the last dish I’m going to post for trying out the mediterranean cuisine and I think it may be my favourite!

Serves 4 – 295 calories per portion – low FODMAP – gluten free – vegetarian – can be made vegan

Ingredients

3 large Aubergines, sliced lengthways  –  Olive oil  –  1 Onion handful of Chives, finely chopped  –  4 large Peppers  –   50g Pine nuts  –  1 Courgette, diced  –  150g Basmati rice  –  500ml Vegetable stock  –  1 × 400g can of chopped tomatoes, with their juices  –  salt and pepper  –  Fresh parsley, chopped  –  Mixed leaf salad  –  (optional: Feta)

Method 

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Halve the peppers lengthways and place them in a grease proof oven pan, cut side facing upwards. Spray or brush with olive oil and cook for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the stuffing: heat up oil in a large frying pan or wok and add the chives, pine nuts and courgette. Cook for 5 minutes until pine nuts are lightly toasted. Add rice, stock, and tomatoes, and season. Cook for 20-25 minutes until rice is cooked and liquid absorbed.

While this cooks, heat up a griddle pan over high heat. Spray or brush the aubergine slices with olive oil. Cook the aubergines in batches of two or three for about 5 minutes, turning them over half way through. Keep them warm in the oven at a low heat until ready to serve.

Stir the parsley into the rice. Take the peppers out of the oven and stuff them with the rice mixture. If you are opting for the non-vegan option, crumble feta on top of the stuffed peppers. Return to oven for a further 5-8 minutes.

Serve two peppers per person, with a couple of slices of aubergine and a side salad.

This dish was super easy to make and tasted great – I love how succulent both the peppers and the aubergine is when cooked in this way.

Note: most stock cubes will have certain ingredients in them, including onion and garlic, which are not low FODMAP. I find that because it is in small quantities and they are not proper chunks of these ingredients that it doesn’t affect me, but it may affect people who are more sensitive. As an alternative, you could try making your own stock, or, as an easier option, just use hot water and a selection of herbs.

Spag/Courgetti alla Puttanesca – IBS friendly

This recipe is taken and adapted from the Eating Well website: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/251029/bucatini-alla-puttanesca

I have taken this Italian dish and given it a little bit of tweaking, not just to make it low FODMAP, but also to add a bit more veg into the mix.

Serves 4 – takes 30 minutes to make – low FODMAP – Gluten Free

Ingredients

4 Anchovy fillets, chopped  –  Olive oil  –  1 tsp Garlic Small handful of chives, chopped  –  2 tins of Cherry tomatoes with their juices  –  Pinch of salt  –  150g Gluten free spaghetti  –  200g Courgette  –  Handful of olives  –  1 tsp Coarsely chopped fresh oregano  –  Feta cheese

Method

Heat up olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Fry the anchovies and chives for a few minutes. As an option, you could add another type of fish as well, cut into small pieces. Add the tomatoes and salt, and cook for about 20 minutes.

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Spiralise the courgette. Add any left over chunks or shavings to the tomato sauce.

Boil the spaghetti and courgetti together in a large pan for about 10 minutes until cooked.

Add olives and oregano to the sauce. Drain the spaghetti and courgetti and combine it with the sauce. Crumble feta on top to serve.

 

My family loved this dish! Great tasting, easy on the stomach, and made super healthy by replacing half the spaghetti portion with courgetti.

Simple Fish Stew – IBS friendly

This recipe is adapted from the BBC Good Food website: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/simple-fish-stew

Another mediterranean style dish which has plenty of veg and is really easy to make!

Serves 6; takes 30 minutes to prepare and cook; 114 calories per portion; Gluten free; low FODMAP

Ingredients

Olive oil  –  2 tsp Fennel seeds  –  250g Carrots  –  4 Celery Sticks 60g Celery stick, 60g Bok Choy  –  60g Kale  –  4 Garlic cloves Large handful of chives  –  4 Leeks  Large handful of leek leaves, shredded    800g Canned chopped tomatoes  –  4 Skinless pollock or Salmon fillets, cut into chunks  –  200g prawns – 500ml fish stock

Method

Cut up the vegetables into small chunks and pieces. Heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the fennel seeds, carrots, celery, bok choy, kale, and chives, and cook for about 5 minutes until starting to soften.

Add the leek leaves, tomatoes, and fish stock. Season and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until veg is tender and sauce has thickened and reduced slightly.

Add the fish and prawns and boil for about 5 more minutes until cooked. Either serve as it is in soup bowls, or, alternatively, with rice.

Note: most stock cubes will have certain ingredients in them, including onion and garlic, which are not low FODMAP. I find that because it is in small quantities and they are not proper chunks of these ingredients that it doesn’t affect me, but it may affect people who are more sensitive. Instead, you could try making your own stock, or, as an easier option, just use hot water and a selection of herbs.

Mediterranean Salad – IBS friendly

Keeping in tune with trying out the mediterranean diet, I decided to create a simple lunchtime salad which incorporated lots of classic foods from this cuisine. I actually rarely eat salads as I find they just don’t fill me up, but packing it full of vegetables and healthy fats medi-style seems to be keeping my energy levels up for much longer.

Serves 1 person; takes 10 minutes to make; 230 calories; can be made vegetarian or vegan; gluten free; low FODMAP

Ingredients

50g Carrots  –  50g Aubergine  –  50g Courgette  –  Lettuce  –  3 Cherry tomatoes  –  Olive oil  –  Handful of olives  –  Feta  –  Smoked salmon  –  Tomato and basil pasatta – Sunflower seeds

Method  

Preheat baking tray in oven, with some olive oil spread around the tray.

Dice carrots, aubergine, courgettes and tomatoes (unless you decide to have the tomatoes raw). Spread them around the baking tray, spray some oil on them, and roast for 10 minutes.

While they cook, shred the lettuce and the smoked salmon. Put them in a mixing bowl and mix in the olives, roasted veg, sunflower seeds, and a small amount of the passata for some extra flavour . Finally, crumble feta into the salad.

Variation Suggestions 

  • Try making it vegetarian by using tofu
  • or go one step further by dumping the feta as well and making it vegan
  • Try varying the fish: maybe tuna or anchovies?
  • Try a mix of different vegetables
  • instead of the passata, try mixing it with vinegar and olive oil, or maybe a pesto

And I’m sure you can think of many many more variations – let me know if you find any great ones!

Quinoa and Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole with Spicy Herb Pesto – IBS friendly

This recipe is inspired by and adapted from the Eating Well website: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/258538/tomato-green-bean-casserole-with-spicy-herb-pesto.

Serves 4; takes 30 minutes to make and cook; about 300 calories per portion; vegetarian; gluten free; low FODMAP.

Ingredients 

100g Quinoa  –  100g Green beans, chopped into 2″ pieces  –  100g Red peppers  –  100g Aubergine  –  50g Pistachios Pine Kernels  –  2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeño pepper  –  1/2 Cup of herbs of your choice (I went for parsley, oregano, crushed chillies)  –  Salt  –  Juice of 1 Lime  –  1 Clove of garlic Handful of chives  –  1 Tablespoons of olive oil  –  1 Cup of cherry tomatoes  –  Cheddar Feta  –  a handful of olives 

Method

Put the quinoa on to boil for 20 minutes, and the peppers, aubergine, and green beans on to boil for 6 minutes.

Preheat casserole dish.

In a food processor, combine the herbs, pine kernels, jalapeños, lime juice, chives, salt, and olive oil.

Put the quinoa, boiled vegetables, pesto, tomatoes, and feta into a casserole dish and mix together. Bake in the oven for 6 minutes.

To finish, crumble feta over the dish and sprinkle with some more pine nuts.

 

This dish was easy to make, kept me full for hours, and also tasted really nice. And most importantly… It didn’t make me feel unwell at all! The great thing about this dish is you can really play around with it, and I’m sure you’d be able to make many different variations, while still keeping it super healthy and low calorie.