After a long, beautiful, very hot summer in Italy I have just returned to the Asian continent and the still ongoing monsoon gives me enough time to sit in front of my computer and start to fill my blog again with hopefully useful information.
People I have run into these days keep telling me “Oh, you have lost weight!”. After the fourth or fifth person told me today, I got upset and went on the scales. I did not! Which for me as a 48kg 1,63m girl is a positive thing. But looking at my shape in the mirror I must admit that I appear somehow leaner. After wrecking my brains looking for a reason for that phenomenon I have come to the conclusion that this must be my special summer combination of nearly daily Yoga plus a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Oh, great, you might think! Pizza, pasta, cappuccino and brioches in combination with some Asian workout make me slim! Yippeeeee! I have to disappoint you – the above items have absolutely nothing to do with the original Mediterranean diet, which originates from the country- and seaside, that is from the poorer people’s tables.
This summer thanks to the Slow Food movement, which is very strong nowadays in Italy, and thanks to some good Italian friends, who understood the concept of “You are what you eat” I had the chance to taste some fabulous, simple food. Food that preserves its original intended taste, fish that tastes like freshly out of the blue waves of the Mediterranean seas, herbs fresh from your own garden, the neighbour’s untreated, blood-red tomatoes….
The original Mediterranean diet is full of real anti-aging food. Which comes from the earth and from the sea, not from a vacuum pack. Remember all those photographs of beautiful, stone-old women from Southern countries?
There is extra virgin olive oil (rich in antioxidants, this is not a low-fat diet, but it is important to use the right fat!), wine from organic farming (packed with Ethanol, which boosts levels of healthy HDL cholesterol; Resveratrol, which new research suggests can mimic the life-extending effects of cutting calories; and Polyphenols that rev up the body’s own cell-protecting antioxidants. And of course totally free from Sulfites!), fresh berries from the woods behind your house, there is fish just brought in by your local fishermen (full of Omega 3 fatty acids), the Greek diet is full of fresh vegetables, beans and fruits and the Greek keep a record in longevity.
The Mediterranean diet is since long time linked to a reduced risk of a number of diseases including depression, inflammation, premature death, diabetes, birth defect, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. Being rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, real cereals and olive oil in combination with a quite limited intake of red meat and dairy products this diet protects your gastric parts where other diets boost the risk of cancers in that area.
The essentials are:
Eat less Eat more
Beef, pork, lamb Lean poultry, fish, beans and other vegetarian protein
Butter, margarine Extra virgin olive oil and pure vegetable oils
Crackers, chips Nuts, seeds, olives
Sweets Fresh fruit
Fat reduced cheese, fat-free Parmesan cheese, feta, goat
yogurt cheese, whole yogurt, organic eggs
Baked potatoes, rice Roasted or sauteed veggies with fresh herbs
If you have the chance to get freshly caught fish from the market – or even good quality frozen fish - the most delicious way to prepare it is to simply boil or steam it. Once on the plate, add little coarse sea salt and drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil, have a fresh garden salad with herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, mint, lemon) with it and 2 slices of good quality wholegrain bread – heavenly! This is about quality rather than quantity.
Also, I experienced the rural cuisine, which often consists of hearty, simple meals full of legumes, like a plain chickpea soup, delicious stews from white beans, or raw, fresh anchovies with a load of red Italian onions (which are not stingy at all, but have a slightly sweet taste to them), olive oil and sea salt – simple, but mouthwatering and full of health boosting ingredients.
Check out for example this beautiful recipe, which I found on www.epicurious.com, a wonderful vegetarian combo, which unites many healthy ingredients and transports you right away in front of a Greek beach watching the sunset…
Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas
- 3/4 cup orzo
- 1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 large tomato, diced (1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
- 2 to 3 cups coarsely chopped romaine
- 1/2 pound feta, crumbled (1 cup)
- 4 to 8 peperoncini
Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well.
Toss black-eyed peas, tomato, and parsley with vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Marinate, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss together orzo, remaining tablespoon oil, cucumber, olives, onion, lemon zest and juice, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Divide black-eyed-pea mixture on colorful plates and layer orzo salad, romaine, and feta on top. Add 1 or 2 peperoncini to each plate. Indulge!