Spanish food: The Mediterranean Diet

The mediterranean diet Spanish food

After researching Spanish food, and particularly the Mediterranean Diet, I realised there are three important factors in traditional Spanish gastronomy: climate, shortage and inheritance.

Let me briefly explain you my conclusions:

Climate – Certain types of foods are only feasible in areas of moderate temperature.

Shortage – Centuries of war, conflict, and poverty in Spanish history made mothers and grandmothers work out how to make a lot with very little.

Inheritance – Knowledge passed down through generations lead to the current Spanish cuisine.

The mixture of these three factors created the Mediterranean Diet (although at that time, hundreds of years ago, nobody called it that).

María Pilar García Madrid, expert dietician and nutritionist, explains below what the Mediterranean Diet is, how to use it, and some of its benefits.

SPANISH FOOD: THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

The word “diet” comes from the Greek word “diaita”, which means “balanced lifestyle”.

Therefore, the “Mediterranean Diet” is the lifestyle that the Mediterranean people has had throughout their history. This balanced lifestyle had been passed through generations.

mediterranean diet

(Mediterranean Diet Pyramid – Oldways)

Here are some recommendations:

1- Use olive oil as the main fat addition. This food is a treasure within the Mediterranean Diet, also known as “liquid gold”.

2- Eat plant food in abundance: fruit, vegetables, salads and nuts. Vegetables and fruit are the main source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and at the same time provide us with a lot of water. It is essential to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Fresh fruit should be the usual dessert and it is a good alternative at mid-morning for a snack.

3- Eat bread and food with cereal origin (pasta, rice and specially grain products). The daily consumption of pasta, rice and cereals is essential because of their carbohydrate content. They provide us with the necessary energy for our daily activities. We have to keep in mind that grain products give us more fibre, minerals and vitamins.

4- Opt for fresh and seasonal food, minimally processed. It is important to use fresh products, because especially in the case of fruit and vegetables, we eat them at their peak conditionto get all their nutrients, aromas and flavours.

5- Eat milk products every day. Especially yogurt and white cheese.

6- Red meat should be eaten in moderation and, if it possible, to be part of stews, soups and other recipes. Small quantities of meat can be usedin sandwiches, snacks and other light dishes.

7- Eat a lot of fish. We recommend you eat oily fish at least once or twice a week.

8- Eat eggs in moderation. Three or four eggs per week are a good alternative to meat or fish.

9- Sweets and pastries should be eaten occasionally.

10- Water is the most important drink in the Mediterranean area. It is fundamental for our diet. Wine is a traditional food in the Mediterranean Diet as well, and can have health benefits if it’s consumed with moderation and always during meal times.

11- Sporting activity everyday is as important as eating properly. It is very important to stay physically active and do activities every day adapted to our individual ability to keep healthy.

PREVENTIVE BENEFITS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

  • It reduces the levels of “fat” and “sugar” in the blood.
  • Diminishes the appearance of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Prevent the appearance of carcinogenic formations.
  • Diminishes the total cholesterol and the “bad” cholesterol.
  • It increases the “good” cholesterol.
  • It strengthens the immune system.
  • It maintains the balance of the defence mechanisms.
  • Diminishes inflammatory reactions.
  • Prevents constipation and diverticular diseases.
  • It helps to diminish the blood pressure.

Don’t forget that the Mediterranean Diet is not only a nutritional regime, but a life philosophy.

spanish oil

(Olive oil, salt, vinegar and white pepper are very popular condiments in Spain)

It is a dietary pattern that combines the ingredients of the local agriculture, the recipes and cooking methods of every area, and incorporates daily sport activity.

All this is favoured by the mild climate that completes this lifestyle. The lifestyle that the modern science invites us to assume to improve our health.

Given the importance of this diet to human health, UNESCO proclaimed it Intangible heritage of Humanity in November 2010.

María Pilar García Madrid – Alimental (Almoradi)

 

DAVID ON RESEARCH MODE

I’ve known the Mediterranean Diet since I was small, although I just did not know that definition.

In fact, it’s possible that very few people in my childhood (I was born in 1978) knew that in Spain, as the country had just exited from a dictatorship and was opening to the world for information.

As explained in Oldways, a very interesting non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting healthy eating:

The Mediterranean Diet concept emerged after an extensive research made on Mediterranean-eating patterns by American physiologist Ancel Keys, who concluded that such patterns were remarkably connected with good health.

In their own words, Oldways includes the following benefits, amongst many other, on the Mediterranean Diet:

  • Lengthen your life
  • Keep away depression
  • Fight certain cancers
  • Aid your weight loss and management efforts

I KNOW YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ MORE ABOUT IT

Because of the large amount of valuable and well documented information I have found in Oldways, I’ve made for you the following index with the most relevant information around the Mediterranean Diet.

Each of the following pages will take you to the official Oldway’s Website.

You can download their excellent and well designed Mediterranean Diet Brochure here.

 

FINAL THOUGHT

I am 100% certain that good food habits are associated with many physical and mental problems that we human beings suffer in our lives.

I’m not a doctor, but like you, I have temptations with processed food (which many times is a form of “pseudo-food”) that we should not eat due to its unhealthy nature.

You know that my goal is to show you all I know about Spain, my way, of course. That’s why I believe this article is worthy, as that the Mediterranean Diet is a fundamental part of our culture.

Have you tried any dishes of our Mediterranean Diet? Please, leave a comment below and share your experience with everybody!

David

Credit Image: Dick Pountain, Meal Makeover Moms

P. S.: Have you visited my new website Official Translators yet?

 

Please, like me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/torreviejatranslation

And don’t forget to “share the knowledge” :-)

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Comments

  1. Jess says

    Hi David,

    Another excellent article I love the healthy Mediterranean diet, the salads and vegetables, although I cannot understand why in Spanish restaurants you have salad on the table but no vegetables with the main course.
    I also heard Spanish children are not liking the Spanish diet, preferring the burgers etc, is it us British causing the problem.
    Looking forward to the E-Book.
    Regards Jess

    • David Ruiz says

      Hi Jess,

      It is possible to get vegetables in restaurats but you have to exclusively order them. Good point, I had not thought about why vegetables are not usually on the main course.

      I think there’s a big problem going on worldwide regarding processed / fast food. I hope it does not get in Spain as bad as in other countries!

      Thank Jess :-)

      David

  2. ann says

    Hi David ,
    loved the article . I love most of the diet but as I don’t eat meat ,chicken ,ham ,pork or any other meat and I am also not a lover of fish apart from shellfish it only really leaves salads and vegetables .Fortunately I love vegetables especially alcochufas ( I hope hope I have spelt that correctly and I love the flan which I know is not strictly part of the healthy diet- Oh and churros and chocolate . I also enjoy paella with some fish in it but mostly shellfish.
    I too am looking forward to the EBook so good luck with that
    Regards Ann

    • David Ruiz says

      Hi Ann,

      Wow! Churros con chocolate! That’s very Spanish. My dad used to buy them on Saturdays when my brother and I were kids. Early in the morning. I know, not very healthy, but nice every now and then :-)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ann,

      David

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