The province of Valencia, Spain is well known for its delicious and plentiful oranges. I had the privilege of visiting this region during a recent trip and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the orange blossoms were in full bloom and their sweet fragrance filled the air everywhere I went.
Given my passion for food and a healthy lifestyle, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the importance of stopping to smell the flowers.
Although this is something we often have a difficult time doing in North America because of our busy – often chaotic – lifestyles, the concept comes naturally for the Spanish people. Here are some tips I learned from the Mediterranean diet and way of life that are largely overlooked in North America.
- Don’t stress about the good fats! In Spain, olives and olive oil are a key ingredient in many dishes. Most North Americans are paranoid about fats, not realizing the difference between good fats and bad fats and not recognizing the crucial role good fats play in the body. Additionally, good fats make us feel more full, meaning we need to eat less often (this is why those on a low fat diet rarely feel satiated).
- Savour every bite. Food should be chewed fully and enjoyed, not stuffed down our throats while we’re running out the door. Sit down and relax when you eat this will help to prevent over-eating and improve digestion.
- Eat amongst friends. Every meal is a chance to socialize. While this may not always be realistic, eating in a pleasurable, stress-free environment should be.
- Dont have guilt after eating. Guilt is one of the worst things to feel after a meal or snack. These negative emotions put us into fight or flight mode, when we need to be in rest and digest mode.
Here are a few of my favourite health-boosting Mediterranean foods:
- Fresh Fruit best eaten first thing in the morning
- Olives and Olive Oil use raw or with low to medium heat only
- Garlic great for lowering blood pressure and killing bad bacteria in the body
- Walnuts high in omega-3 fats, which reduce blood pressure, boost immune function and regulate hormones
- Tomatoes high in lycopene, an anti-cancer phytonutrient
Recipe: Mediterranean Salad with Oranges
- 2-3 oranges, peeled and segmented
- ½ large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
- ½ cup sliced pitted kalamata olives (if you buy ones with pits, just use the heel of your hand to squish the olive and the pit becomes easy to remove)
- ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- olive oil, as needed
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- chopped raw walnuts