Today’s Guest blogger is my buddy Sue, who lives in Barcelona. She writes about why eating the Mediterranean staple daily has transformed her into a healthy little bunny. Here’s her post..
When I first arrived in Barcelona, I did as many tourists and some locals do: start the day with a croissant, often made with shortener (not every bar makes buttery tender, flaky ones) and a café con leche (coffee with milk). That made me very hungry quickly, and by midday I was craving something — you guess it – greasy. Such as a glorious chorizo (spicy sausage) sandwich. But, if you’re determined to eat healthy, as I now do, you’ll be rewarded in no time feeling more energized and lighter.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, which places high emphasis on good quantities of vegetables, legumes, nuts and complex carbohydrates, a moderate amount of fat, mostly unsaturated olive oil (approximately 25% of caloric intake) in salads and for cooking, limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month. According to Wikipedia, this diet pattern was recognized by UNESCO on 17th November 2010 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Italy, Greece, Spain and Morocco, and is thus not simply a fad but a fundamental part of their history and culture and a great contribution to the world.
Maria has the best variey of fruits and vegetable
Breakfast now is often a variety of seasonal and local fruits (chirimoyas (custard apples) grapes, mandarins, oranges, pineapple are now in season, as are bananas the whole-year-round from sunny Canary Islands) and a handful of nuts, when we haven’t time for a second breakfast such as a healthy sandwich an hour after the fruit fest. Walnuts (the Chinese believe “it preserves the brain”), almonds, pecans, brazil nuts and hazelnuts are awesome foods for breakfast, a snack or as dessert. Have them lightly toasted, minus the salt. Over time, you’ll get hooked on their lovely, textured flavours. Go slow on peanuts (they are actually a legume), as they are hard to digest and can promote lethargy and aggravate skin breakouts. In humid countries such as Malaysia take special care to store raw nuts in air-tight containers, better still vacuum-packed to prevent mould. I like the Camel brand recently available in Malaysia and Singapore, packed fresh for people on the go.
Another Maria, choosing pecans for a power-packed start to the day – Maria from Granada @ Mercat Sta. Caterina, Barcelona
Brigitte Mars, author of Rawsome ‘Maximizing Health, Energy and Culinary Delight with the Raw Foods Diet’ has this to say in p.79: “Almonds contain about 18% protein (comparable to that of meat protein) and are a good source of vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They have an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, demulcent, emollient and tonic properties. They are known as a brain and bone food … and help alkalinize the blood and relieve chi stagnation (energy blockage) in the liver. Almonds strengthen the nervous system, improve energy and increase strength and sexual vitality.”
“ Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi said almonds foster ‘self-control and calmness of the mind and nerves.’” We’re fortunate in Catalonia, the region within which Barcelona is situated, to have shops selling steaming bowls of freshly cooked legumes. But cooking chickpeas, for example, over the stove takes more than an hour. With the pressure cooker, it takes 15 minutes. For the adventurous wanting variety (and not from a can) learn how to cook legumes the fuss-free way here.
Try this simple recipe using garbanzos (chickpeas) as a main ingredient:
1 cup, 1cm pieces medium-sized fennel bulb without fronds 400g (or about 16-ounce)
can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar according to preference
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle liberally
Mix everything together, tossed lightly, and it’s ready to eat.
To make this a hearty main meal, add slices of grilled chicken breast with Cajun spice, grilled tempeh (try looking for organic ones) or anything that comes to mind. Read more at epicurious dot com . So there you go. Your imagination’s the limit when it comes to eating healthily. When in doubt over whether some unfamiliar ingredients go well together, do as my younger brother Ken used to do when he was a baby. Stick his tongue out first to taste each new ingredient or food on its own!
Next week: Lose Fat with the Mediterranean Diet – Part 2 .. Stay Tuned!About this week’s Guest writer: Sue is a Malaysian writer and editor based in Barcelona, Spain. She has a keen interest in cross-cultural understanding and making Southeast Asia known in Spain. Follow sue on twitter- @suechienlee . She can also be reached at [email protected]